Our session started innocently enough, with the party resting to allow Zydrunas time to regain his faculties after being brained by the box of Rocks, but this idle time led the group into doing some odd spring cleaning. Let me explain…….
In the dome shaped cave the party were resting in, there was a natural, low stone slab with a large dark blood stain on it, presumably left from multiple sacrifices. Thinking there may be a clue underneath the bloodstain the party resolved to scrub it off and reveal what may be underneath. The only other things the party noticed about the cave was the faint sounds of jingling bells and forced laughter coming from a narrow corridor in the left wall of the cave, and the total lack of sound from the right hand passage.
Lacking any cleaning materials and instead of using lots of precious water and materials, our ‘Noble’ Tiefling Lerissa, under instruction on the properties of Uric acid from the sorcerous Erik Deville (*whose magic had failed to move the stain), simply decided to drink heavily and relieve her bladder on the stain to assist in removal. A few embarrassed moments later (with Zydrunas watching the whole thing from the corner of the cave where he was making as much noise as possible by sharpening his axe) the party managed to scrub enough blood to reveal some sort of picture of symbol. The partially revealed sigil wasn’t recognisable to the party (was is a rune? a map, a coat of arms? None knew) so they moved on, deciding on the quiet corridor on the right.
Moving into the corridor ready for trouble the party came across a smaller, rectangular room with odd pegs and rails installed along it’s sides. Hanging on the rails were 12 corpses in various states of dress and decay, everything from skeletal remains to fresh cadavers. The smell of decay was absent in this room and the temperature was artificially colder than the rest of the cavern thus far, but only once you were inside the room. While Erik was investigating the source of this chilling effect and smell repression the rest of the party moved to investigate/identify (and loot) the bodies. While rifling though the bodies, the skeletal remains animated. Erik was apart from the main group and saw the skeletons come to life, his shouted warning enough to call the group to action quickly enough to not be surprised and the party found themselves under close assault from the brittle fingers of these reanimated bones.
The fight was short and brutal with the party quickly realising that blades weren’t going to help in the close quarters. Using staffs and bits of armour torn from the other corpses, the party proceeded to beat the skeletons down. Myrtle Bullroarer knocked a skull clean off it’s body (leading to another skeleton picking up the skull to use as an improvised weapon) and at one point, Zydrunas even tossed his axe to the skeleton he opposed, using the moment the skeleton caught his massive axe and tried to work out how to use it in the close confines of this creepy wardrobe of corpses to rusk the hapless pile of bones, lift him bodily and hurl it over Lerissa’s head directly into the skeleton she was fighting.
Before long the party were victorious, a mixture of bludgeoning and Firebolts saving the day. Lerissa looted a messenger pouch from one of the corpses and Erik set about burning all the other copses to ash lest any more decide to animate and attack.
Inside the pouch was a letter written in absolute gobbledeygook on a vellum sheet is elegant, yet scratchy, script. Obviously ciphered, the party moved to the blank parchment found with the vellum in the pouch for clues. One of the sheets was obviously chemically treated somehow and under advice from Lerissa, the party concluded the cipher was likely hidden on that apparently blank parchment somehow. Storing the pouch for later study, the party moved back to the domed room and pushed on down towards the sounds of the bells they’d heard earlier.
The bells and laughter had stopped. Perhaps the sounds of combat or Zy sharpening his axe had warned off the laughing, jingling people. Edging down the thin passageway, taking note of the fabric scraps and dried blood found caught on the naturally spiky sides of the narrowing corridor, the party found themselves in a larger, crooked star shaped cavern with a lower ceiling. The artificial light cast by Myrtles ensorcelled staff revealed many branches to the star, snaking away from the central cave in all directions and three motionless figures in the centre of the cave itself: A Jester (replete with bells), a Bear and a female dancer in large skirts and heavy make-up. When the bemused party approached, the three figures sprung to life – the Jester larking about and trying (and failing) to juggle, the Bear (seemingly a man in a good costume) moving back and forth shouting a fake “Rawr!” and the dancer pirouetting and laughing in a forced, almost mechanical way. These figures were obviously under the influence of magic somehow, and were not acting naturally at all.
After the jester dropped his juggling balls (but carried on the motion of juggling anyway) and the dancer approached Lerissa stating “Oh! A Bear! Won’t someone save us from this creature?” (a line prompting the ‘Bear’ to comically chase after the dancer with fake claws raised and “Rawr!” aplenty) the party got a good look at the faces of two of the figures – these were Zombies in costume, acting out some sort of instruction or grotesque pantomime. The Jester, after letting Myrtle get to his (juggling) balls, started to retreat into one of the star branches. Baffled by this display, the party casually pursued the fleeing, laughing figure.
Following the Jester-zombie up a steady incline debating what to do with these unnatural but seemingly harmless creatures, the party simply followed the Jester’s lead and headed up the incline, the jester ringing rows of bells lining the uphill corridor as he laughed his way to the top. Getting sick of this behaviour and not entirely trusting the Jester’s actions, Myrtle took aim with her crossbow as the Jester reached the top of the incline and fired before they could lose sight of him. Hitting dead centre, the bolt threw the Jester onto his back, where he kept laughing unnaturally at the party, seeming unperturbed by the injury. Zy rushed up the passage, delivering a killing blow or three with his mighty boot, silencing the Jester for good.
With the rest of the party catching Zy up, they discovered that at the top of this corridor was a small round chamber with three tables inside. On top of each table was an iron bound chest. Deducing that this was where the Jester was leading them the party nervously took a chest each with only Erik staying near the door, looking for wards, magical runes and such around the chamber entryway. A pair of curious eyes watched the party from a dark hold in the wall opposite the entryway and when Zydrunas spotted the watcher, Erik simultaneously found the runes for a Magic Mouth spell. These activated showing a painted par of lips which spoke in a voice that filled the small chamber,
“You dare to pit yourselves against the Lord of Lance Rock? Die, you fools!”
And with that, a mechanical, grating noise followed by a hidden gate of iron bars started to fall into the cavern entrance, trying to seal the characters in as trapdoors above disgorged tons of boulders to crush the party.
Exploding into action, Zy dived for the outer walls hoping to avoid the falling rocks. Myrtle and Lerissa dived under the tables for cover. Erik rolled under the falling grate and out onto the corridor. Rocks fell. Fortunately nobody died.
Once the dust settled it was clear that while Lerissa had sustained injury, the party halfling had taken a severe blow, knocking her unconscious. With Zy and Eriok working together to raise the grate and Lerissa administering First aid to the fallen Myrtle, the party worked to get their companion somewhere safe and comfortable where they could deal with the most severe of her wounds.
Sliding the unconscious halfling out under the propped up grate (having used some large rocks and the now destroyed table’s to provide suitable props s people could crawl under the grate) the group are left wondering whether the other two Zombie performers are a threat and who to get at this so-called Lord and pay him what he is due for such a craven attack! First, the party need to save Mytle’s life and bring her around. Then, it’s payback time.