The Whispering Cairn I
The morning following their return to the Blood Claw village, the team meets again and sets about trading what they can of their loot. With only the one small village to market to they are unable to sell everything outright but are able at least to trade for more portable goods where coin isn't available.
By midday they've completed their task and seek out the shaman to report on their mission. Darkfoot greets them and listens to their report with interest, praising them for a job well done. It quickly becomes clear, however, that he has another mission for them already. As the trio sit back and politely sip the shaman's rather unpalatable bloodroot tea he tells them of a vision he had while they were away. In this vision, he says, a human he met years ago is killed in a freak accident in a tomb that he's exploring. Darkfoot is certain this vision hasn't yet come to pass (though it will soon) and he wouldn't normally be concerned for some human anyway except that he owes this particular human a life debt.
After much prayer and fasting Darkfoot has come to the conclusion that Lendys, the dragon god of justice, has shown him this vision. Furthermore he believes that it is clearly intended as a warning to him that his time is drawing short and he must absolve himself of this debt before it's too late. Thankfully the vision itself also provides a means of doing just that and to this end Darkfoot is determine to send a warning to the human not the enter the tomb, save him from the fate that awaits him there and thus repay the life debt he owes him. The team, of course, has proven itself quite capable so he naturally elects them to deliver his message.
After talking the matter over with Darkfoot and getting all the needed details they accept the written message from him and head out for another round of shopping. This time they purchase a pair of riding dogs, two cart dogs and a cart. After outfitting the riding dogs with leather barding and rounding out their gear for an extended journey they are ready to depart. Stopping by Darkfoot's cave to inform him of their departure (and to receive the traditional blessing) the team wastes no time making for Diamond Lake, seeking the human wizard known as Allustan.
Looking the message over Gutter feels it's well written and admires Darkfoot's prose. Toerag and Rue, however, disagree and work together to rewrite it, attaching their copy to the original with the intent of delivering both together.
Darkfoot's message, written in Common on a cured rabbit hide:
"Allustan. My dismember you for sparing my life years and years behind. You owns my life debt. My give you warnings for keeping you alive and stealing back life debt. Lendys the gloryful balancer dragon gives me vision. My see you in tomb many old and big rock fall in you head. This is soon. My say this - No going to old tombs! Rock fall in you head! Now my tell you this and steal my life debt. Now you go to old tombs then rock fall in you head and my laughing on you.
Now my got my life debt and my can eat you next I find you.
Dismember! No old tombs! No rock falling in head! Now my find you and my eat you!
Toerag and Rue's interpretive revision, in Common:
"Allustan. I remember how you spared my life many years ago. I owe you a life debt. I give you a warning in the hopes of sparing your life and repaying the debt I owe you. Lendys, the glorious dragon of balance, has given me a vision. I see you in an ancient tomb and I see a large rock falling and striking you on the head. This, I believe, is to occur soon. I say this - don't go into the tomb! A rock will fall on your head! Now I give you this warning and thus pay back the life I owe you. Now that I have told you this, if you go into that tomb and this rock falls on your head, then I will feel justified in mocking you.
Now I have paid the life debt I owe you and should I meet you again, I can eat you without guilt.
Remember! Stay out of old tombs! Don't let the rock fall on your head! If I see you again I will eat you!
After three days of relatively uneventful travel the team at last finds itself well within human lands. They manage to stay away from the more frequently traveled paths and roads until they come at last to Diamond Lake. There they are forced to deal with the problem they've been ruminating over since they left the mountains. How can they find where in the town this Allustan is without being slaughtered in the streets by the human warriors in the process?
Wracking their brains for everything they can remember hearing about humans, the trio at last believe they may have an approach that will work. With a quick prayer to Chronepsis for luck, the team rides up towards the edge of town, waiting for the inevitable uproar. Soon enough they are spotted and they can see some small measure of disturbance from the townsfolk at their approach. As they draw near the outlying buildings a five-man squad of town guards intercept them, demanding they depart and threatening to kill them.
Following their agreed upon strategy, Gutter and Toerag remain silent while Rue smiles brightly and promises not to eat the nice humans if only they will accept a hundred gold coins and escort them to the wizard Allustan. The offer causes some measure of pause in the human warriors and the team has occasion to doubt their understanding of human behavior. After only a moment, though, the warriors begin at last to engage them in dialogue seeking to confirm the offer. Once it has been affirmed that the trio of kobolds require their services as bodyguards and guides through the daunting human town (and to the home of Allustan), the five warriors become much more accommodating. Within minutes the guards have taken up position around them and proceed to lead them through the streets past the gawking human commoners to Allustan's residence.
Once they've arrived, two of the humans thoughtfully accompany them to the house to make introductions. Though startled at the sight of three kobolds at his doorstep, the wizard recovers quickly and soon invites them in. The team gets right to business explaining that their tribe's shaman sent them to deliver a message which they proceed to hand over, along with their own revised version. After reading it and considering the matter for a moment, the wizard politely thanks them and asks that they relay to Darkfoot that his message was received and understood, and furthermore that he may consider his debt repaid.
When the team prepares to depart, intent on exploring the human town a bit before they return home, Allustan begs their leave to stay so that he can question them about their tribe. Expressing his assumption that kobold community are typically savage and evil, he wonders how kobolds could be found visiting human communities and bearing such high quality arms and armor. Before Rue can stop him and remind him that only she is to speak to the humans, Gutter assures Allustan that all their gear was bartered for honorably and was originally taken from the corpses of their tribe's enemies. Mostly humans.
Wincing a bit, Rue attempts to reassure Allustan that they are quite civilized. Darkfoot's insistence on repaying his life debt before he felt it appropriate to eat the wizard should testify to that. In short order the kobolds are drawn into discussion with the wizard and they spend nearly an hour acquainting themselves to one another. When it becomes apparent that the town guards are beginning to get restless, though, the team at last begs their leave of Allustan. Showing them to the door he asks that they stop by his home before they leave as he may have an offer of some interest to them. They agree and exit the wizard's residence, heading for the town proper.
The kobold trio spend the next three hours following their hired town guards around Diamond Lake. They politely make note of this and that point of interest, stopping at several shops along the way to rid themselves of the last of the loot from the Howling Horde raid. Though the townsfolk are clearly shocked and a bit nervous when they walk into their shops, the presence of the guard offering reassurances helps to ease tensions. Once the team have successfully rid themselves of their loot and converted everything into more portable coin, they head back to Allustan's to drop in on him before heading home.
Meeting with Allustan again they soon find he's interested in hiring them to survey the tomb which their shaman wrote about. Clearly it would be unwise for him to go forward with his plans to do so himself in light of Darkfoot's vision but he is nevertheless quite curious about a particular cairn outside of town. Knowing that kobolds are subterranean creatures by nature he reasons they are uniquely suited for the task. Moreover, he offers 500gp if they will survey the entirety of the tomb for him, making note of any unique features and documenting their exploration.
The team considers the matter for a moment. Already they have a respectable amount of wealth from their previous ventures; though not enough to buy them the extravagant magical items they've always heard can be found in a human town. Undoubtedly this job could net them enough gold to buy something truly impressive. If they were to return home with some astounding magical item after concluding their second successful mission it is probable that they will finally earn enough respect from their peers to be included on future war bands.
Having discussed and agreed on the matter the team offers to spill blood with Allustan to seal the bargain. After further discussion with him, however, they settle for a simple (and rather unsatisfying) handshake.
Bidding farewell to their guards at the edge of town (and paying them the promised gold) the team heads out toward the Whispering Cairn. Along the way the pass the landmarks the Allustan informed them of; including the abandoned mine office just 10 minutes from the cairn. A quick once over confirms that it would make a nice spot to camp as securing lodging in the human town might be difficult.
Moving on they arrive at the Cairn within minutes, finding it easily. Entering the tomb and taking a look around they don't spot anything especially out of the ordinary. Toerag examines the clump of soiled cloth and finds it to be merely a moldy old bedroll. Rue notices a faintly flickering green light far down the hallway. The team continues cautiously down the hall to the next set of alcoves. Taking note of the collapse on the right they turn their attention to the strange object in the left alcove. While Toerag examines the area in minutia, Rue sketches the large glyph in the journal Allustan issued to them while Gutter keeps watch behind them. From her knowledge of the arcane she guesses that it likely represents someone's proper name, a personal symbol of sorts. When Toerag points out the arcane symbols etched inside the frame of the object she interprets them as signifying "transportation" and makes note of them as well.
Moving on deeper into the tomb the team comes to a larger chamber with alcoves to either side, with the hall continuing on north through layers of old cobwebs. From their observations of the flickering green light, they haven't drawn significantly closer to it. A visual examination of the western wing and the dais within reminds the team that they haven't lit a torch or lantern yet, as they can't make out the colors of the elaborate wall painting with their darkvision. Gutter takes a moment to light a lantern so they can examine the area more accurately.
After looking things over and wondering aloud at the significance of the painting they turn their attention to the collapsed eastern wing, where they find three very hungry looking wolves taking advantage of their distraction to stalk them.
Gutter, his bastard sword already in hand, immediately charges the lead wolf, the largest of the three and lands a solid blow. Toerag draws her blade and kukri as well and darts around to flank the three beasts. Responding to Gutter's attack, the big wolf snaps at him, drawing blood, but fails to bring the Kobold barbarian down. A second wolf darts forward to engage Gutter but runs neck first onto his blade.
Rue raises her heavy crossbow and fires at the trailing wolf, missing it, as it also bounds forward to try to take down the large Kobold.
Gutter levels a tendon-wrenching swing at the Big Wolf, scoring a critical and killing it instantly. Toerag follows up with a charge at the smaller wolf but fails to connect. The small wolf, in the meantime, snaps at Toerag to no effect. Rue reloads.
Gutter steps over to the smaller wolf and swings, missing. Toerag has better luck and lands a nice jab. Rue fires on the wolf as well but with all the action and everyone in the way she misses.
The smaller wolf stubbornly snaps at Gutter but misses.
With Gutter's next swing going wide it's Toerag who lands the killing blow, dropping the wolf at last.
Searching the wolves den behind the rumble, Toerag finds the old backpack containing the indigo colored lantern. Across the room she finds the silver armband and in the rubble, the marble index finger.
Confronted with the northern hall and the cobwebs littering the space within it, the team decides to burn the cobwebs away. Lighting a torch off the lantern, Gutter proceeds to do so while Toerag and Rue stay close at hand to deal with any spiders that might come at him. The exercise proves fruitless as nothing more than a score of tiny, harmless spiders present themselves. Still, with the hallway clear they can see the stairs that descend below to the source of the flickering green glow.
In the room below the team finds the sarcophagus in the center on a raised platform and seven wings extending out from the room, each with chains (and most with lanterns) hanging in them. The also make note of the ever burning torch in the green lantern to the north. Examining the sarcophagus first, without touching it, Toerag finds no sign of traps but does note the missing finger matches the one she found. Carefully she places it in it's place and notes the way the hand lies, though it doesn't make any sense to her. Rue notes another glyph like that on the strange device near the entrance. This one, too, denotes a personal symbol of someone of stature, though likely of lesser importance than the glyph on the other device. She makes note of it in the journal as well as a detailed description of the room and its contents.
Gesturing the others back, Toerag attempts to wrestle the sarcophagus lid open. She manages to do so but is reward by a blast of flame. She makes her Reflex save for half damage (2) and notes the sarcophagus appears to be empty before the lid she dropped falls back into place.
Noting the hanging lanterns match those in the wall painting back down the hall, the team realize easily enough that the indigo lantern they have should be hanging here (and that the red lantern is also missing). Toerag pulls the indigo lantern out of her pack and trots over to hang it from the hook. Gutter and Rue then join her and they make a full circuit of the room and it's seven wings. The immediately notice the higher ceiling in the northeast wing as well as the tunnel that extends outward from high up in the shaft. The team discuss it and decide to finish working with the sarcophagus before attempting to gain access to that shaft.
Return to the sarcophagus the team decides to attempt to turn it, as the arrow shaped platform suggests. Finding that it will only turn clockwise they turn it to point at the yellow-lantern wing. When the 5-foot cylinder rises up from there and opens, Toerag sets about examining it and finds nothing outstanding. She takes the initiative and steps inside, at which time the doors slam shut and the cylinder descends with her inside.
Gutter and Rue immediately spring for the sarcophagus and begin turning it around again, hoping to reactivate the cylinder and bring it back. On their first attempt they fail to move it at all.
Toerag, meanwhile, is descending in the cylinder and looks around her from some apparatus to operate the device. She finds none.
Gutter and Rue attempt to move the sarcophagus again and again they fail.
Toerag arrives in Architect's Foyer and the cylinder's doors open. She waits to see if it will return her to her comrades but the doors remain open.
Gutter and Rue continue to have extraordinarily bad luck moving the sarcophagus around.
Toerag decides to wait one more round, unwilling to step into the room full of creepy bas-reliefs.
Gutter and Rue finally turn the sarcophagus, pointing it toward the glowing green lantern. Hearing the sounds of grinding stone that result from this they resolve to continue on.
Toerag hears the faint rumblings and jumps back into the cylinder.
Gutter and Rue turn the sarcophagus to the blue lantern wing.
Toerag waits cautiously to see if anything is going to cave in outside the cylinder.
Gutter and Rue turn the sarcophagus to the indigo lantern wing. When the cylinder rise from there they both rush to jump inside...then jump back out again when Gutter notices the crushed bone fragments and molded clothing on the floor of the thing.
Toerag exits the cylinder again and decides to search the room, weapons at the ready.
Gutter and Rue return to the sarcophagus and turn it to the violet lantern wing.
Toerag notices the stone slab blocking the exit and the mechanism behind it, as well as the trap set to release (presumably) poisonous gas from the statues.
Gutter and Rue turn the sarcophagus toward the tomb entrance.
Toerag waits patiently by the cylinder, not willing to mess with the trap while she's stuck in there with it.
Gutter and Rue turn the sarcophagus again, toward the red lantern wing.
Toerag waits some more.
Gutter and Rue turn the sarcophagus to the yellow wing at last and the cylinder closes, rising back up.
Toerag waits anxiously.
When the cylinder appears again, Gutter and Rue hurry inside and ride it down to rejoin Toerag in the Architect's Foyer. When Toerag points out the trap to the others they decide to let her have a go at disabling it, with Gutter and Rue ready at the slab to attempt to push it over should she set off the trap.
When everyone is ready Toerag gets to work. She unfortunately sets the trap off almost immediately and scrambles to the slab to help Gutter and Rue push it over. They barely manage it, even with Gutter's natural 20 roll and both Toerag and Rue succeeding in helping him. Everyone makes their Fortitude saves vs. the poison and they all scramble over the fallen slab and out of the poisoned room.
As the team approaches the room down the statue hallway the Lurking Strangler sneaks out from the alcove where it was hiding to attack.
The Lurking Strangler fires its sleep ray at Rue from behind. Though it lands the ray squarely on her she manages to shake of its effects.
The Lurking Strangler tries again with its sleep ray. Again he hits Rue but she shakes it off. Toerag, unaware of any danger keeps walking but Gutter spins about when Rue gasps in surprise. As she turns to fire on the floating creature Gutter rushes to engage and is hit by its fear ray. He, too, manages to shake it off and slash at the Lurking Strangler, killing it with one blow (and a nice critical hit).
Turning their attention back the room they spy the infestation of brown mold, noting that it becomes markedly colder the closer they approach to it. At the point where the cold becomes severe enough to be dangerous they halt and Gutter throws the lit torch he still holds onto the mold to gauge the effect. The brown mold instantly doubles in size, covering even the area where they stand, and they are all subjected to non-lethal cold damage as they dash back into the hallway.
Once clear of the danger Rue uses her Wand of Cure Light Wounds to heal everyone to full health. Deciding to proceed around the other side of the central pillar the team find the Living Quarters and search it. Though nothing is found Rue spots another glyph on the bas-relief and identifies it as yet another personal symbol. This one, too, is lower ranking than the one on the unidentified device near the entrance of the tomb. Toerag, experimenting with the effects of the air bed, becomes fatigued until Gutter and Rue snatch her off it.
A quick check of the southern most room reveals it to be nothing more than an ancient bathroom.
After spying the room beyond the brown mold the team spends a great deal of time trying to devise a way of combating the mold but nothing comes to mind. Eventually Gutter volunteers to take the wand, tie a rope around himself and dash across into the room. After more discussion everyone agrees. Once the rope is secured around him Gutter dashes quickly across the brown mold and into the Workshop, taking 5 non-lethal cold damage in the process. He whisks this away with the wand before searching the room.
Finding nothing in the room that grabs his interest or seeming especially valuable, beyond the jet black egg, he snatches it up and prepares to stow it away. The egg immediately blossoms into the form of a small earth elemental who then barks at Gutter in some unknown tongue (Terran). When Gutter does not respond in kind, it attacks.
The Earth Elemental slams Gutter, landing an impressive blow. Gutter responds by flying into a barbarian rage, draws his sword and attacks the Elemental and killing it with one (critical) blow.
Gutter maintains his rage and dashes back across the brown mold, suffering 15 non-lethal cold damage. This enough to knock him unconscious, even in a rage. Fearing that he is dying Rue snatches the wand from his grip and uses it to heal him. Though this rouses Gutter the team is dismayed to find that's the last of wand's charges. Rue stores it away and the team eventually decides to take their rest near the cylinder that brought them down to this level.
While they rest Rue takes the opportunity to update the journal with all the details she can recall and Toerag soon discovers the switch that summons the cylinder. At that time the team decides to forgo resting completely and vacate the tomb for now. Using the cylinder they return to the ground level and exit. Taking to their waiting riding dogs they head for the abandoned mine office as it's now late enough at night that a visit to town might not go over well.
After a night's rest the team heads back to Diamond Lake and waits for the local guards to notice them again. Once they've made contact and offered more gold for an "escort" the guards inform them that they've been ordered only to allow the kobolds into town if they agree to disarm first. The team considers this for a time before begrudgingly cooperating.
Before they can enter town, however, they are confronted by a red haired warrior in white and blue robes who demands they state their business. The situation quickly heats up, not between the kobolds and the warrior, but between she and the guards who clearly don't take kindly to her interfering with their racket. As the kobolds stand their ground and let events play out the guards eventually run the grumbling warrior off, though they begin to get the odd impression she may have been attempting to intervene on their behalf rather than not.
In due course they reach Allustan's residence again and spend some time reporting what they've uncovered so far. Interestingly the wizard seems quite excited at the various renditions of glyphs and frescoes that Rue shows him. Going over these subjects with him the team gets a brief summary of the Wind Dukes of Aaqa, the battle of Pesh and the Rod of Law (a.k.a. the Rod of Seven Parts).
After learning their second objective in town is to procure a replacement healing wand he sadly informs them that there likely isn't one to be found in a small town like Diamond Lake. He does, however, recommend Benazel the Alchemist who resides in a tower along the northwest edge of town. Benazel makes quite a fortune selling elixirs and healing potions should be readily available from him.
Taking their leave of Allustan the team and their belligerent escorts move on to Benazel's tower where they arrange the purchase of multiple healing potions. After a quick stop at the local jeweler to pawn the silver armband they head out of town again and make for the tomb while the day is still young.
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