16 October 2016

Averaigne campaign - session 24

[The story so far]

Session 24 - The tomb of the iron god (iv)
NB - this uses Matt Finch's excellent Tomb of the Iron God module and may contain spoilers

Roundly cursing the impetuous advice of the ex-guardsman Jean that had nearly got them blown up in a fiery maelstrom of acidic goo, and brought them all through the archway with its warning despite a lack of sufficient robes to cover their heads (and was that the right covering anyway?), the party decided they might as well carry on down into the catacombs.

The room they came out into was evidently cut into the rock, reminding Gwen of a cousin's iron mine she'd once visited "but for big folk". It had three other exits one North, one West, and one South East, with a a large round iron table in the centre. Oddly, it had an integral iron pointer about two feet long poking out horizontally towards the North West.

Like this, but iron, and with a protruding spike like those found on a compass rose

Immediately suspecting the spike might indicate something hidden, Aurelius and Nausicaa began to explore the section of wall it pointed towards. While the others stood guard, Montagne had a closer look at the table. When he touched the spike the whole top of the table began to turn, clunking slightly as it tried to stop opposite the West door. He kept pushing, noticing further clunks at each opening... and then another as it pointed North East. "Over there," he called to the wizard and elf who were still searching the other corner. Sure enough, a section of wall swung open when pushed at about hip-height on a man.

Montagne and Jean took point, the bigger man prodding the ground in front of him with the butt of his spear. Sure enough, another pit trap was revealed and safely navigated. "We're getting the hang of this underground business!" proclaimed Tybalt, his ignominious end at the teeth of the rats nearly forgotten.

Paranoia - if your group don't feel it, you're not DMing it right
The passageway made a sharp turn towards the north an opened out into a small space with a pair of alcoves ahead of them, a large iron-bound chest in each. Looking closer, they realised the chests were actually completely iron but engraved to look wooden. With Tybalt giving the all clear for traps, Montagne levered away with a crowbar until the lid of the left hand chest buckled and opened. Inside was a lot of gold, a fist-sized ruby wrapped in chamois leather, a bag of peppermint humbugs (!), and another bag with three humbugs and a charred wand.

[This gave my favourite bit of in-character roleplaying of the session]

A long, long discussion followed. Should they take the gold or not? If it was offerings to Ferrus for the safe passage of the souls of the local dead, had taking it caused the monks to turn to iron? If they took it would they be punished too? But Berignon had said the quest would make them wealthy, and he was a major cleric. "I don't steal from the dead!" "Clearing out his temple has got to be worth a reward, we wouldn't have found it if we weren't supposed to take it."

Round and round they went, until the decision was made - they'd get Oiseau (not Nori as he is still disgraced) to lead them in prayer to Ferrus to see if it was ok. No feeling of doom crept over them in response to their question, so half of them took the gold and split it between them and the other half decided it was still best not to.

I wonder which group will feel they made the correct decision in the days to follow?

For now, they decided to break open the other chest using the broken mechanism of the first to make it quicker. Inside were a score of glass globes about 8" across. Carefully tapping two of them together caused nothing other than a slight ringing sound from the glass... and seven others shouting "No! Don't do that!" Aurelius, for he was the inquisitive one, hastily returned the two globes to their individual, straw-lined compartments and shut the lid.

On they went, finding a secret door to allow them past the apparent dead-end, then north when a choice had to be made at a t-junction. After a short and narrow dead-end spur to the west, littered with bones, a wider and deeper alcove (about 20' square) opened out on the east of the passageway. It was evidently part of the catacombs' key function as it was lined from floor to ceiling with maybe forty slots about six fee long, most containing a preserved corpse.

"Aaagh! Oh gods! Quick, destroy them! Smash their skulls!" screamed Aurelius, his experiences in the barrows returning with visceral intensity. "No! Just look first!" rejoined the others, especially Oiseau who had not been part of that misadventure and could not countenance the desecration of these tombs. Unconvinced, Aurelius, Jean and Nori kept a careful grip on their weapons as the others explored. There was a small, split chest of silver coins, and a damaged ivory casket in two of the empty "slots", but these discoveries were minor in comparison to Nausicaa finding a pile of hands in one slot, and the others noticing bite and claw marks on the not-very-well-preserved bodies.

Then Tybalt heard a noise. A sort of snuffling, chittering noise. "Quiet!" he called, "Something's coming!" He listened again. Yes, definitely, and a sort of slapping sound like that of wet bare feet on stone, moving quickly. Getting louder. Now the elf could hear it as well. Coming. Coming quickly, getting louder...

Panic overtook them. Aurelius hauled a body out of its slot and climbed in to hide. A babble of indecision broke out as no-one could take control to decide where to go. Now the sound was coming from both directions along the tunnel towards them, from north and south. With no option, they decided to form up to present shields and steel in each direction, the torch held high in the middle.

Not a moment too soon. From the darkness skittered five nearly-human shapes that turned their stomachs. Hunched and feral, with bulging eyes and pallid skin, emaciated arms with sharp claws at the ends of their fingers reaching out and grasping as they bared their teeth and hissed in a predatory way at the adventurers. Aside from the stench of rotten meat they brought with them, Dumnorix felt a wave of unholiness emanate from them. He gripped his symbol of Alathea tightly and bid them begone in a commanding and sonorous tone. They twitched but did not slow. Gwen threw the symbol of Ferrus she'd picked up at the oncoming beasts and they swerved to avoid it but once again didn't slow.

Those in the front lines (Montagne and Jean to the North, Nori and Oiseau to the South) braced for impact and brought their weapons crashing down on the... things... as they came into reach. Jean's blade tip took the throat out of one, while Montagne was able to bash his to one side which allowed Jean to cleave its skull in two. On the south side things were trickier; they faced three. Oiseau spitted one but the second was on him in a flash, scratching and spitting at him around his shield. Nori wasn't able to land a decent blow and was soon holding his off with the shaft of his pollhammer.

Figures from Heresy Miniatures

Desperate to help, Nausicaa tried to throw the holy water she'd collected from the fountain earlier over the creature facing Oiseau but merely ended up soaking the back of the cleric's head! Gwen grasped her axe and pushed forward to join the line. Too late to help, as it proved, for Dumnorix managed to push his foe away and bring down the head of his pollhammer with a sickening crunch into, and through, the forehead of the beast. Seeing this, the final ghoul (for such they were) turned and fled, doubtless planning to return later to feast on his erstwhile comrades. Concerned he might bring reinforcements, Oiseau lunged after the retreating corpse-eater but slipped and fell face first into the remains of Nori's kill with his mouth wide open. He rolled away twitching and writhing as he vomited the foulness from his system. Nausicaa couldn't help retching at the thought.

Better late than never, Tybalt yelled for his friends to step aside and took careful aim at the fleeing ghoul's back. He gently pulled the trigger... and the metal prod (the "bow" of the crossbow) snapped with a dreadful clang, the two parts whistling back past either side of his head and embedding themselves in Nausicaa's shield. The elf tutted in frustration at the spoiling of its finish and made a mental note to charge the halfling for its replacement.

Once sure the beasts were slain, the two clerics hauled the wizard from his hiding place and reverently replaced the body he'd tossed aside. Suitable prayers were said and the party readied themselves to move on. Casually, Montagne disregarded the silver coin as too heavy to bother with for its value but added the ivory box to his pack to sit alongside the gold and large ruby. He at least meant to be well-rewarded for this adventure!

What else lies beyond, in the darkness of the catacombs?

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