The caves beneath and under the Rolling Ridge Lodge were not extensive or dangerous - but I did plant two things there that I hoped the party would stumble upon and bring out. And they did.
And the inner me is very very happy about it, because it will be pretty big as the game goes on.
Small pebbles harken the advance of a coming avalanche.
Write up follows:
Avulstein went to the edge of the water and rooted through the many bones of vermin that were there until he scooped up a decent bag’s worth. From there he went back and taking a number of the vermin out, called upon Hel and worked his magic until 5 of the animal skeletons became animated. Creepy. He them placed the 5 skeletal rats into his bag and we were ready to move on.
The water grew past our ankles, ending around mid calf at the deepest part as we slogged our way forward. The first clear area had two mounds of rock that had fallen from the ceiling above, making a pair of rocky islands in the water. Rats, lots of them, were crawling around the cry hummocks and we opted to give them a wide berth. But there were two ways out of here, and we settled on the southern most of the two.
Picking our way along we traveled south, most of getting wet feet and Negan forced to hunch forward as he was walking, the half-ogre too tall for the 7’ tall ceiling. The passage wound a bit and then “T’ed”; where at the T was a shelf of stone above the water line, 12’ wide, and 2’ deep. On it were a mound of refuse and other garbage woven into a rat warren where we could tell some 40, 50, or even 60 of the vermin were making their home. They chittered as we drew close but they let us pass.
The group conferred and opted to go right at the T.
It was Connal, Larry, Einar, and Negan leading the front as we travelled along. Our progress had a number of rats swimming ahead of us as they sought to escape our light and presence. As we made our way along we came to an area where someone in the distant past had fitted a wooden frame and door here. However, age and water had done its work and the door had busted from its frame and slumped forward, held on by a single hinge. There was a room past here, but to get to it, we’d have to climb over the door.
We didn’t like that option and instead decided to knock the door off the last hinge and get it done with. So it was blunt weapons up and then some stomping and the door fell forward the rest of the way in the water. However, under the door came a number of angered rats who then emerged from other trash piled in the room. Along with the biggest naked looking mole-rat anyone had seen, it was the size of a small dog! It chittered and squealed so loud, that it immediately churned up and upset the rats in the room…and all the rats still in the hall along the shelf by the T.
And the rats all swarmed forward and attacked.
Connal took point against the big mole-rat thing while the center of the group tried to run away and avoid getting bit by the riled up swarm, Avulstein making the fastest retreat of them all. But during the short vermin filled combat, Einar called to Frey to calm the animals which mellowed out the swarm in front of Connal, and Negan erected a barrier with Odin’s will to keep vermin at bay – preventing the swarm in the T intersection to press forward.
From there it was suddenly just a single fight against the rat king…which ended without fanfare. Once it was over, we noted the passage ended at this dead end room so we backed up down the hall and then made our way down the left side of the T. Eventually the ground felt like it was sloping upwards and the water became lower until we were on dry cave.
From the edge of the water were small fungi of various types, but the further one got from the water, the taller and bigger the fungus got until there were some 2-3’ varieties. Knowing about the shrieker spores, we did spy a few mushrooms that had strange morphic growths and coloring. So Avulstein had one of his skeletal rats crawl forward until it arrived at the suspected mushroom. Then he had it climb the mushroom and the stem of the fungi began to flex and pulse and within a few seconds it sounded like a whistling breathing that grew very loud and piercing.
Avulstein had the rat return to him and it took almost 90 seconds for the screaming to wind down and stop. So, we could risk getting by the shrieker, beat to a pulp (which would take some time), or bypass it by taking the side corridor before the shrieker further south into the caves. We voted to take the side passage.
The mushrooms continued, but none of them had the look of shriekers. We ended up in a large side chamber with a derelict 60 year old dwarven ballista slowly rotting away in the dark. It was no longer sitting square, many of its rope pieces had rotted away, but the ballista was still here. There was a plaque on it, identifying it as “Ogre’s bane” and was built by the original owners of the Rolling Ridge Lodge; Gerti’s grandparents. Under the ballista was an iron box that we dragged out, broke the lock to, oiled the hinge, and opened.
Inside were four oilskin wrapped high quality steel and silver inlaid oversized spear heads, festooned with filigree work and runes that were in support of Odin. We took the heads, knowing that we could eventually attach then to spears at some point, and then took better stock of where to go next. There was an opening on the far east side of the chamber so we continued along.
The fungi around here were developing a bluish tinge to them and as we walked, the cave began to feel colder. The bluish tinged fungi were now omnipresent, and the bluish coloring was growing deeper. The corridor rejoined with the one on the other side of the shrieker here, and it ended at a large chamber. 4 20 gallon barrels were along one wall, the blue fungi was everywhere, and there was a yellow-pink 2 ½’ tall bi-pedal naked figure lying on the ground.
Darius made a lasso and after a toss or two, managed to loop it around the figure and start to pull it closer. However, the rest of the group was noting that the blue fungi in the area were beginning to look more robust, swelling up and getting subtly larger each minute or so. We pulled the figure closer, it was a female, bundled it to us, and ran back to the ballista room.
Once here the diminutive figure grew more awake and thankful. Identified itself as Salarahadra and had escaped her captors and their crate some weeks ago, hiding out here. She could not escape through the main exit because of all the flying menaces there, so hid further in the cave until the mushrooms robbed her of her flame and she fell into torpor. She identified herself as a mephit, a being of flame, and swore her thanks to Avulstein and Darius for their efforts in saving her, promising to save their life should the need come in the future to balance the scales.
As for her flame, she asked to touch the fire from our lantern, and with a divided party and unsure thoughts, we let her do so..and she burst into flame and started flying. However, scary flaming efreeti looking girl aside, she was still looking out for us and offered to guide us to the exit (she could sense the flow of the air from outside).
So we went back into the water, around past the shelf with the rat warren, and back to the original room with the 2 hillocks of fallen rick. From here we took the northern passage and followed it to the east. There was a set of steps going up here to our left, and the corridor did continue on to the east. At this point we could be pushing our way to the exit, but with a guide, we decided instead to explore these other area and see if we could find anything of interest. So we went up the steps, out of the water, and once more through blossoming fungi. However, no shriekers and no blue fungi so we felt no immediate threat.
At the top of the steps there was an opening to the east that lead to a long abandoned and worn away stone altar to Odin. Most of the accoutrements had fallen over or rotted over the decades so the group took it upon themselves to straighten up the place, rest the candles holders, light a few and then one by one, dropped a few coins in the offering bowl and gave a thanks to the All-Father for their trials and tribulations so far. We left the altar room and went back to the steps and returned to the water again.
From there we passed another rat warren and then came to another set of stairs that led up again. Salarahadra informed us this was the way out. We proceeded and once more away from the water had a number of fungi growing. The difference was the steps showed passage and the fungi in the center of the steps had been flattened and kicked aside over time, so the sides of the steps and the walls alone were full of mushrooms.
At the top of the steps there was a “T” and we could see another shrieker so we drew up into battle lines and races up, Negan leading the left and Darius leading the right, many in the middle would hit the shrieker and try to silence it fast. Sure enough it began to bellows and a whistling shrieking scream filled the air, announcing to the cave that someone was here.
Coming around the side from the left part of the T were a trio of fluttering, flying…rocky exterior looking squids! The end of the arms had a curled black talon and they came about wrapping themselves on Darius and scratched and bit at him. The other two followed. Meanwhile the shrieker was punctured hard and its yell turned to a fluttering flatulent sound as its inner bladders were burst.
Negan was crouched over, weapon out, when around the corner can the squat ogre-like face of something else…the two of them looked at one another and decided mutually to not attack. The other ogre (not really, only 6’ tall, but looked just like an ogre with very washed out eyes) identified itself as “slag” and as long as the party wouldn’t fuck with him and wanted out, he would let them pass. Negan thanked Slag and let the rest of the gathered troupe know.
Meanwhile Darius was getting the squids off of him with some well placed help and the waving of torches and light to scare the flying beasts away. We followed Negan who followed Slag north until we came to a side area, Slag stood by it, weapon out but not threatening, waiting to see what the party would do. As we went past and on our way to the exit, the ogre-like creature relaxed and we bid it farewell.
From here it was some up and down until we arrived at the exit of the cave which was on the sloped back side of the ridge behind the Rolling Ridge Lodge. The slope was high, but the top was only some 70’80’ away. Darius scrambled his way up, rope and grapple dragging behind. We set up a series of ropes to trees and cave and then to top of ridge and the group made their way up and then down the other side to the Lodge.
The lodge had collapsed, only a few of the larger support logs remained upright. The entire wreckage was still smoldering. No Talbor (Squeeze), no one else. We started hoofing it back to Thak.
About a third of the way we were accosted by orcish voices from the rocks who demanded tribute, but refused to show themselves. There was some sniggering about how they robbed some ogrish looking guy last night (Squeeze?) so we left them a bag and moved on. It was some time later the orcs realized we left them a bag of rocks.
It was 4:30 when we made it back to Thak and from there we had set up a plan where Gerti would deliver the logs and books we saved from the vault to the Lord Marshall, explaining the Braddock’s duplicitousness and the fact that Squeeze had arsoned the place. Thedge offered to go with her. We took Starfin and Daggers with us back to the Demesne (Starfin was nervous being in town, since House Myr still hadn’t given him the OK to come back yet). Thadar Darbeard and Savaris ushered us immediately to their office and heard about everything that had happened. We needed to get the rest of the import/export logs to the Lord Marshall as well and wanted to make sure that it was done soon and without getting the Darbeard’s involved.
So we made our way to the Lord Marshall’s office, Larry performed a short illusion disguising his face, and the books were given to an adjunct who then brought it immediately to the Lord Marshall and we beat feet out of there and back to the Demesne.