Write up follows:
The group was dragged into the room the skeletons had been in and then the door was closed. The lock and handle was on the other side so this was a limited solution at best. First some slaps were given to wake everyone up and then healing was doled out. We took stock of ourselves and Veldryn assured us the mists would last a few more minutes tops. The room was heavy stone and there were many gouges in the rock and the back of the door as the skeletons that had been here had tried to get out over the years.
A quick look was made for secret doors on the east wall since that was the only one that didn’t lead back to the cellar or the foundation of the mansion above. Sure enough there was a section of the wall that did move slowly and with great effort. The space beyond was a room heavy with dust on the floor. From the staleness of the air coming out we deduced it hasn’t been opened for decades.
A light shining within showed a long workbench on the west wall and a desk on the south wall, chair and a figure in a hat and robe sitting there, the edge of an open book visible. It appeared he was…reading. In the dark? Beyond a secret door? For decades? Deja volunteered to step in and she crept closed and eventually touched the figure with care…discovering that person was dead and had been for 20 years.
Waving the rest of the group in we entered and looked around, the party deciding to shut the door for now and seal it back in place. No one had found it for 20 years, no one would again – plus it would give a chance to pick a better place to fight the smugglers. For now, the figure was the original magic-user, alchemist, and owner of the mansion. Veldryn had suspicions that he had been here reading and died suddenly, stroke or heart attack. For some reason, this made the party a bit sad.
Taking stock of the place we looked around. There were some items on the desk in front of the alchemist each of them seemingly made entirely of gold: a human skull, a set of balance weights, a rose, and an apple. The book he was reading was a ponderous tome identified as “The Philosopher’s Stone” which had the group gasp in surprise. A detect magic followed and we discovered a glow coming from his left hand where a pearlescent oblong rock was gripped and another glow coming from the second drawer in the desk where we found a book bound in cracked dark leather and sporting a few runes on the cover.
Veldryn was sure the book was a spell book as the runes were those of protection from fire. Some of the pages were in poor condition from mold and water but the book itself was still whole, so we took it. As we were looking around at the many alchemical alembics and braziers we heard voices coming closer and rising. The smugglers had returned and were looking around.
There were many of them talking and the group of them discovered the skeleton door opened and the bones smashed. Where were we? Someone else reported the stairs up to the 1st floor had been destroyed and the leader, Sanbalet, said that this place had become too hot and we should gather everything up, get to the caves, and get out before the fools from Saltmarsh come back and try to arrest them.
We then heard lots of noises and banging for a few minutes as they cleared out of the chamber and then eventually it got quiet again. We waited until we heard nothing else and then discussed our options. The group didn’t want these guys to get away but opening the secret door and fighting them from inside this room was not a good idea as they’d be trapped. So the decision was to go now, give chase, and take them down before they get a chance to escape.
The party opened the door, arrows and swords at the ready…and the skeleton room was empty except the bones. We did note that the long leg bones were not here for some reason. We then went into the cellar proper…and there were some changes. Half the torches were now out, all the footlockers had been opened and ransacked, the closed door on the north wall was open and even though it was a nice bedroom it too had been cleared out. Even the casks and silk had been taken. Magnus realized that his lantern had been stolen from the table.
We went to the southwest corner of the chamber and a short investigation revealed the secret door we knew was there. Weapons ready, we tore the door open and Deja took point. A set of stairs was cut into the stone and went down further and further, eventually turning under the house itself and heading off in the direction of the Mastelic Ocean. Was there a ship here to spirit them away?!?
With the scent of salt air guiding us and torches guiding our steps we sped along until we came to a split, south or west? South smelled faintly of vinegar and west did not – so we opted for west. Continuing we could hear voices now and again up ahead along with the sound or people moving things. Another opening to the south but we ran past and came to a place where the cavern had a large open room to the west and another turn to the south where we could faintly hear voices and the lap lap lap noise of the tide on the rocks.
From the room we could see 3 humans, two men one female, and two 7’ tall wide shouldered hyena hybrids creatures clad in brigandine and sporting battle axes. The room had a dozen large casks and maybe half a dozen rolls of fabric. The bald headed smuggler was guiding the others and when the group came into view there was some snarling and the battle was joined! Arrows flew and the first smuggler went down with an arrow in his throat. The female smuggler whipped out a spear and the battle line struck the lead gnoll, Veldryn scythe doing terrible damage.
Sanbalet however finished whatever spell he had and fired one off at Veldryn, hypnotizing the priest! He them commanded her to attack the Halfling with her scythe and she whirled around, hacking twice – slashing Deja wide open and dropping her to the ground. Talion stood over the Halfling and we heard more smugglers coming from the south!
Healing was dropped quickly and Magnus took the front of the room; the paladin standing against the last gnoll and the spear wielding smuggler. As Deja was down the hypnotism faded and there were more smugglers getting closer. Valerie sent Ho’rse the giant rat south to intercept them, the 35# vermin tearing into one of them and ripping him femoral artery open, spilling blood everywhere.
Magnus was giving and taking blows from the gnoll and smuggler, struggling to keep them from the rest of the party. Sanbalet finished another spell and turned himself invisible! Damn it! Deja got back to her feet and gritting her teeth grabbed her bow shooting an arrow at the last approaching smuggler from the south. The battle was spreading wildly and then Magnus took a blast to his leg from the gnoll’s battle axe. The hyena like figure was cackling fiendishly as the paladin hit the ground…and then the smuggler with the spear called him pathetic and jammed her spear into his chest so hard it punched through and hit the back of his armor with a clang – the paladin was now down and in the negatives!
From the south MORE figures were coming up, two of them, a gnoll and…Ned Shakeshaft! Valerie was crying to Ned, “Why!?” and the smuggler looked embarrassed and turned back crying he couldn’t do this, breaking the half-orc’s heart. And then it got worse as the approaching gnoll slammed him battled axe down – flattening the druid’s giant rat companion, Ho’rse! The anguished cries were numbing.
Veldryn whipped out the scroll of cure moderate wounds and read of the words, turning the scroll to flame, but bringing Magnus back to full and breathing new life into the party’s paladin. We had the paladin bolstered to his feet as the priest supported him as best they could with scythe, axe, and shield against the wounded gnoll and the angry spear wielding smuggler. Behind them Talion and Deja were sending arrows down the hall and into the fight when the opportunity presented itself and still there was another gnoll coming from the south, his own battleaxe stained with Ho’rse’s blood. And through it all, Sanbalet was somewhere nearby, invisible and waiting for his moment.
And it was time to roll for initiative.