The big end piece combat for tonight ended up being two sets of combat separated by a 25' long spillway of collapsed ceiling that split the party in two and involved everyone struggling against a 5 count of carrion crawlers and an almost out of control fire as well as 27 skeletons split into three waves assaulting a no-retreat location.
We survived but three of the party members were on dregs and had to rotate out of combat. Our only healer was also located on the wrong side of the collapsed wall which did not help matters none. However it was 21 rounds of combat involving over 40 combatants and it was a blast.
Write up follows:
Pecheri was big on going after the quarry now but was willing to give us a hour to get ready before going in. Selene was escorted along with her family back to the Thanach homestead and Flimflam used bandages to fix what painful wounds he could in our party. We also went to the cask of oil that had not exploded and filled one of the wine bottles about half full as well as Quintus’ lantern. Finally ready and girded, we drew weapons, formed ranks, and headed down into the ground.
The corridor started at roughly 9’ or so wide with varying ceiling heights running from 7’ to 10’. The floors were smoothed but not smooth, the walls rougher, and the ceiling fairly crude. The steps had the sharp edge to them of either newerish construction or lightly used at best. The walls were limestone and other igneous rock mixed in and the feeling was that the corridor we followed was at some point maybe an original crevice that had been worked to its current state.
We left the surface behind 20’ above us and then a short sloping corridor led to another set of steps going 10’ further below the earth. It revealed a large chamber with an opening on the north wall and another on the south east corner. In the center, taking up the majority of the floor space, was an almost 30’ thaumaturgic circle drawn in a 6” or so wide swath of blood; with a similarly painted pentagram in the middle. Maybe 20 or so melted pale blue waxy lumps were situated within and along the bloody lines, and even smaller symbols to Hades were scattered inside – painted or drawn onto the floor itself.
In the southwest corner were half a dozen wooden buckets covered in cheesecloth and some maggoty piles of bloody flesh that came from both livestock and people – used apparently to draw the pentagrams. Besides the obvious there was an undercurrent of unease being near the symbol. It appeared there was no easy was across except stepping over the lines and making ones way across the chamber.
Something no one was anxious to do.
We dared not touch the blood since it was still somewhat fresh looking but by all rights it should have dried and congealed. We dared not touch the blood since it was still somewhat fresh looking but by all rights it should have dried and congealed. We threw stones past the circle and again inside the circle – no issues. Finally the group decided they were going to pick their way across – the lines were not too thick and could be easily stepped over. The party then crossed one at a time, with Pecheri going first.
He complained that it seemed disturbing at first but he made it over. But for each person that went after they also felt a feeling of unease that did not fade – staying with them after they made their way over. It seemed that just Marcus and Pecheri were unbothered.
We then followed the northern corridor slowly, taking care to map carefully and watch around each corner. With Zeta and Tranis in the lead (for tracking and trap finding purposes) they cautiously led us to the first corner some 30 feet or so away and we looked around.
30’ long, turns to the left. And a 4’ tall, 3’ wide blackened section of the wall had a depiction of Hades’ ram’s head symbol on it. Fuck.
We approached, and Flim (being in the lead at this point) was able to feel an uncomfortable feeling again getting closer. There was a corridor going left here (short, maybe 25’ and turning to the right again) but we weren’t going to go past unless we could clean the symbol somehow. We hurled a flask of water at it, and it did work – runnelling some of the water down the wall. So we had Tranis hold his waterskin like a spigot and squeezed – sending a stream of water to run over the surface, and obscure the symbol to Hades after about a ¼ gallon or so was wasted.
No longer feeling the strange oppression we continued past and came to the next corner. A set of sharp edged stairs were here, running down to an open space. Quintus whistled up a light spell on a rock and we tossed it deep into the room.
The chamber (oddly shaped) was filled with hundreds of carapaces of a variety of sized beetles – most of them the size of a finger, perhaps 10 of them as large as a cat. There was a layer of glistening ichor on most items, including the walls up to about 2’ in height. There was some concern on going down and then we saw figures undulating into the room from the far side. One at first and then a second, and finally as many as 5 (that we could see). They were sickly vomitus pale, 18” in diameter, over 12’ in length. They moved like a caterpillar on scores of feet except exceptionally fast. They had no discernable sensory organs, their “face” appearing to be the puckered end of some giant inbreathing worm.
And then it caught scent of us and sped up in our direction. It puckered open spewed out and pulsed, and eight 4’ long writhing tentacles lashed out, sending some goo to splatter against the area. A few of us shot, but for some reason our arrows were ineffective; or shots were poorly aimed and of no effect. That was when oil was dumped on the stairs and set alight. The flames roared up, stopping the crawlers in their tracks just before they got to us, causing them to retreat also amidst a scattering of our still ineffective arrows.
Deciding that this was not the correct way, we made our way back to the pentagram chamber and crossed it again, this time going to the south-eastern corridor. Once more that sensation of something wrong settled on everyone and we talked about what to do next. Pecheri volunteered to go back to the entrance and refill a bottle with oil from the cask that was supposedly still up there. While he was gone, we upended one of the buckets in this room just to see what was inside. Blood. Congealing blood and entrails. Fucking great.
Pecheri came back with 3 bottles (2/3rds full) of oil – dangerous stuff. We split it amongst us and then turned our way to the east. The corridor sloped down here at 30 degrees – fairly steep, to what seemed to be a storeroom. We carefully made our way down and proceeded to look around. A chest of drawers, moldering sofa, 2 low wooden stools, a pedal driven grindstone, 2 barrels, a rolled up carpet, and half a dozen piled large mismatched cushions. There were two ways out of this room, one on the south and one on the north.
The group split up and began searching around, poking and prodding. The chest of drawers seemed to have clothes (apron, hat, toga, slippers) and the barrels sounded full, but it was Quintus poking around the cushions that disturbed a serious number of bugs and spiders…and three almost 2’ long centipedes! They swarmed around his legs and boots, one of them getting high enough up his thigh to bit him, the toxicity of the bug’s venom making his ill and sick. The group raced over and some well place blows killed two of the centipedes while the third retreated to the cushions to hide. Flimflam looked Quintus over and said that the effects of the toxin might (might) fade with rest and sleep. The sorcerer decided to tough it out for now.
We lined up again and this time decided to head south. The corridor went straight for some distance and then jogged right and then left again, the ground sloping down at a slide worthy 20 degree angle. We were walking with care when Zeta and Tranis stepped across an unforeseen trigger, sparking a glyph that fired off…followed by a cracking overhead and the raining fall of dust and stones. Most of the party still under the now collapsing ceiling ran forward: Zeta, Tranis, Auri, Pecheri, Marcus, and Quintus. On the other side of the falling rock, Geld grabbed Flimflam and pulled the gnome druid back UP the slop and away from the mounding rock and falling stone; Whosea, Sanford, and Hugnin also stuck up there. A cloud of dust and grit was billowing out, knocking visibility to a few feet and making the party (on both sides) cough and hack.
And then Tranis’ group heard the sound of movement in the gloom. Movement that was clattering and coming closer. The haze was still heavy in the air and we didn’t see what it was until was just about on us. And then they were there…coming out of the shadowy light: skeletons. Over half a dozen and coming towards us.
We shuffled battle lines fast, seeing that we were going to be facing a number of the undead Auri, Zeta, and Tranis took point, Pecheri and Marcus readied bows, and Quintus (feeling ill) began clambering on the pile of stones, trying to dislodge enough to make a crawl space up top for us to get back. Two of the skeletons that were facing us did not move with the jerky motions of the animated undead – but with clear purpose and skill like that of a warrior – as evidenced by their rapid closing and assault with spear and shield.
The battle lines clashed and Pecheri drew back a red feathered arrow from his quiver, took aim past the front rank and let fire. And the Detonation Arrow blasted the back ranks of the skeletons to splinters. 5 of them blew apart to bones and sinew. One of them at the moment of impact, whirled around and let its shield take the blow, dropping the shattered barrier before snatching a fresh one from the floor and then striding forward.
Our attacks were strangely still not as effective as we’d like, some of our attacks just flat out missing for no reason. We shuffled our weapons around to bludgeoning and clubs where able to and brought the punishment against the few skeletons still here.
And then another 9 skeletons came from around the corner.
Meanwhile Flimflam had ordered his animals to watch the two other corridors from the storeroom and he and Geld tried to tackle the mound of rocks before them.
One of the undead had a bow and before they could get closer, Pecheri pulled out another Detonation Arrow and let it soar down at the back bunch. One of the skeletons with a shield jumped UP in the path of the arrow and took the blow, preventing it from tearing the second wave of skeletons apart, only dropping 4 of them. The remaining 5 swarmed forward and we were facing two ranks deep of stabbing skeletons. Both Auri and Tranis were fighting defensively while Quintus abandoned digging the party out to add his magic missiles to the combat. What few blunt arrows we had were flying against the undead, but the better undead warrior types were not going down easily.
And then a third wave of skeletons came around the corner, two of them sporting bows. And they fired. Quintus was hit and so was Zeta – both of them suffering painful wounds. And then Quintus was hit again, stabbed in the upper thigh and now moving even slower. He struggled with some goodberries and the group realized that their healer was on the other side of the mounded stones.
And the skeletal line grew thicker as the undead tried to press their advantage against us.
Flimflam and Geld had removed only a few of the lighter stones from the top of the pile, opting on making a crawlspace for the druid to get through when Sanford came back yipping and barking wildly. A fast speak with animal spell revealed what we were afraid of – the 12’ long tentacle crawlers had found where we were and were coming from the direction of the pentagram room.
The two of them raced there along with their animals and were sad to see that TWO of the crawlers were already near the top of the stairs. How to stop them? How can they stop them? Fire worked before, it’ll work again. They took one of the bottles of oil and hurled it where it smashed on the stairs, then Geld took the torch he had and tossed it – missing the oil! Again, the feeling of “just not right” was affecting the two of them. So Flimflam told Sanford to race up there and kick the torch forward 2’ so the flame would hit the oil. It had to be now, the crawlers were at the stairs and coming down! Run! RUN!
With only seconds to spare, Sanford hit the lit torch with enough force to send it skittering into the oil and WHOOSH! It ignited! The fire raced up the steps and the lead crawler was suddenly hit awash with flame. Geld had run up to the chest of drawers and was throwing the top drawer and clothing within up the steps to add to the fire and keep the crawlers back. The one on fire raced forward to get out of the flames but moved slower and died, a 12’ line of burning flesh.
The group tried to hold the undead back and Pecheri was down to his last blunt arrow. Quintus channeled his attacks at the better fighter type in the center, magic missiles breaking against it. Everyone else redoubled their attacks at the same warrior until it was forced to splinter its shield on one of Auri’s crazy club swings. And then with the way clear, Pecheri fired a final Detonation Arrow down field and blew up another swath of skeletons. We were now facing just about 14, and Zeta had to withdraw from the front line. Tranis was barely staying ahead of the blows he was taking, eating his supply of good berries and draughts only to have a number of stabs reduce his hit points once again.
The gap in the line was filled by a showing skeletal warrior and everyone in the back ranks assaulted that one skeleton until it fell, and then Pecheri stepped into the breach with his long sword drawn. His blade was not nearly as effective as Auri’s club, but he gamely did his part, hacking and slashing with his blade doing half damage.
Upslope Geld dragged the big grindstone back towards the top of the slope while Flimflam let fly another (the last) bottle of oil to the top of the stair – catching the closest crawler that was already burned and setting it further ablaze. Meanwhile the burning oil had spread across the stone floor and had set the couch on fire. The smoke was turning dark and thick and the room was filling with haze, the air difficult to breath. The two friends dragged the chest of drawers and the two barrels back to the slope; making a crude barrier that should stop the crawlers IF they come back and AFTER the fire burns out.
From there the two of them turned their full attention on making enough of a crawl space on top of the pile to go and help their friends.
The undead were relentless, and the better skilled ones continued to hit the group, whittling hit points away one at a time. Eventually Quintus was out of spells and he and Zeta worked feverishly on clearing enough of a space up top to get their way out of this area and back to Flimflam. One by one we took the enemy down until Tranis had to pull back, unable to fight on. Marcus took his place and the trio of Auri, Marcus, and Pecheri did the best they could on the skeletons.
The numbers continued to dwindle. 8. 6. 5. We could hear Flimflam faintly calling us through the rock pile and those not involved in the long long long fight shifted hundreds and hundreds of pounds of rock.
Finally, we could see Flimflam’s hand through the top of the spill and Quintus helped pull the very welcome gnome through. The space was not large enough yet for Gel…or for us to get free, but progress had been made.
Finally the last of the superior fighting undead fell and the last three became cruder in their tactics and abilities. Still fighting, but more mindless than before. With a final frustrated flurry of stabs and crushes, the last of the undead horde collapsed and the party took much needed stock of themselves and their situation.