The Whispering Cairn II
Once the team arrives they head straight for the blue lantern wing and survey the area. On the floor of the shaft they spot a old withered corpse that they hadn't noticed before. A cursory examination of the remains reveals its crushed bones, as if he fell from the top of the shaft (or, rather, as if he fell from an even greater height than that).
Toerag, as the unofficial scout for the party, scurries up the chain hanging in the center of the shaft until she draws even with the side tunnel up there. From her vantage point she can't spy the end of the tunnel, even with her darkvision, but the first 60 feet seem standard. Swinging on the chain a bit she is able to draw closer to the edge of the tunnel and make a leap from the chain to the tunnel's edge. Once there she breaks out her climber's kit and fastens two pitons and a knotted rope near the edge of the tunnel, affording Gutter and Rue a slightly more stable climb up. In moments they arrive and survey the tunnel together.
Noting the gouges and scratches in the floor of the tunnel and recalling the broken skeleton at the bottom of the shaft (as well as finally coming within sight of the eerie face at the end of the tunnel) the team halts while Toerag Takes 20 on a search of the tunnel. Finding nothing she eventually gives the all clear signal and they proceed forward to examine the screaming face bas-relief at the end, triggering the trap in the process.
Toerag makes her Will save but Gutter and Rue are both mesmerized by the spinning, flashing eyes of the now animated face. With a strong wind blowing from the face's mouth serving as a clear warning that things are about to get nasty Toerag snatches at both of them, attempting to drag them back down the hall and away from the face.
Jerking the two of them around and down the hall a bit seems to help snap them out of it but the wind has already grown in strength to the point that Toerag is knocked off her feet. Gutter and Rue return the favor and help her stand up again as the gust of wind becomes overwhelming. As they near the lip of the tunnel, Gutter and Rue both scurry down the rope while Toerag leaps for the lantern chain before the wind can blow her down the shaft.
At the bottom of the shaft the team waits a bit to see if the deadly wind will stop, which it finally does after some ten minutes. Having taken 20 on the search of the shaft and found nothing, Toerag is at a loss as to how to avoid whatever trap they've triggered. Gutter and Rue, however, recall that the flashing colors in the eyes of the face that so mesmerized them corresponded to the colors of the rainbow, just as the lanterns do. Except for green, that is, the only lantern in the room that's actually lit.
Lacking enough torches to light all the lanterns they break out their oil and dribble just enough into each to light them long enough to test their theory. Once all the lanterns are lit (except the missing red one) Toerag rushes to the hanging knotted rope, up to the tunnel and down the passage until the trap is triggered. Gutter and Rue, meanwhile, spread out a blanket held tightly between them in the hopes of breaking her fall should she fall victim to the wind trap. Sure enough Toerag triggers the trap and notices the eyes of the face only flashing red now, though she immediately falls victim to their hypnotizing effects and stands staring until the wind completely overwhelms her. In moments she is blown through the tunnel, over the edge and down the shaft where her teammates successfully catch her in the blanket.
Though thrilled that their theory has been proven they are nevertheless at an impasse without the red lantern. Taking time to conduct a thorough search of the entire level does not reveal it, nor does a similar search of the level below (including another mad dash by Gutter across the brown mold and the use of two healing potions to eliminate the non-lethal damage). They decide in the end to make another full turn of the sarcophagus in case they missed anything, especially the trapped cylinder in the indigo wing.
As Gutter and Toerag work together to turn to sarcophagus, Rue stands near each shaft in order to examine the effects up close. Once the arrow-shaped platform points to the green wing and the ominous grinding of stone on stone results (this being the third time they've turned the arrow to the green wing) the two push on quickly until they point the contraption at the indigo. Toerag then rushes over to search the area in detail before the cylinder vanishes. She is able, in the limited time available to her, to suss out the mechanism of the trap and devise a way to disable it (as well as spotting and snatching a pouch with a nice ruby and some gold coins in it). Before she can disable the trap, however, the cylinder closes and descends.
Grumbling, the team return to the sarcophagus, working together this time to turn it back around yet again and afford Toerag a moment to disable the trap. The fourth turn to the green lantern wing, however, results in the entire elevator mechanism in that shaft finally collapsing into the area below, leaving a gaping hole in the floor there. All three of the kobold adventurers detect the sound of scuttling insects coming from the hole. They wait a moment to see what will happen, staying back to the limits of their darkvision.
In moments a wave of chittering beetles gushes from the hole in the floor, heading straight for Gutter.
As the Swarm makes for Gutter, Toerag snatches the torch from atop the sarcophagus and races around it, intending to approach from behind. At the same time the Mad Slasher claws its way up from the collapsed elevator shaft. Gutter, lacking anything to fight a swarm of bugs with, wisely retreats for a moment around and behind Rue. Rue, meanwhile, snatches a vial of alchemist's fire out and hurls it at the swarm, managing to ignite a few of them.
The Swarm rushes forward the engulf Rue's feet, biting her in the process. Toerag then catches up, swiping at the swarm with her torch but having no luck dispersing it. Rue, however, decides swarms of bugs aren't in her job description and dashes off toward the tomb entrance.
The Mad Slasher finds itself at something of a loss. It's in rather a slashing mood but all the tasty targets are in or near the irritating swarm of bugs. It dithers a bit, looking for an nice opportunity. Gutter, noticing the Mad Slasher's behavior decides to ignore it for the moment and focus on the bug swarm. He fetches out a torch and lights it off his lantern.
The Swarm turns and moves into Toerag's space, crawling and biting her around the ankles, at which point she decides to follow Rue's fine example and make herself scarce. She hotfoots it for the tomb entrance as well. The Mad Slasher has by now had enough with waiting and goes after the nearest target, the running Toerag who just cleared the bug swarm. Gutter, seeing this, lashes out as it passes near him and draws blood. He then levels a follow up blow which wounds it badly as well.
Hearing the sounds of battle behind her Rue snatches out another alchemist's fire and turns to race back to Gutter.
The Swarm again goes after the closest target, Gutter, who manages an offhand swipe at it with his torch. Toerag, hearing Gutter fighting behind and seeing Rue turn back to help, likewise alters course and heads back. She immediately flies into the Mad Slasher who jabs her for her trouble. With only a torch in hand for a weapon she swings it anyway, missing but making a good effort nonetheless.
Thrilled to have two targets in range the Mad Slasher makes a Whirlwind Attack with misses both Gutter and Toerag spectacularly. Gutter smacks at the Swarm again with his torch, figuring them the most troublesome opponent at the moment. Rue, standing back from all the action, plunks a Magic Missile into the Mad Slasher's grotesque hide.
Toerag finally drops her torch and wields her long sword, swinging wildly at the Mad Slasher. The Slasher responds with another Whirlwind Attack that lands a gash on Toerag, though Gutter manages to dodge it. When Gutter's attack misses Rue drops another Magic Missile into the beast.
Toerag decides to be bold and run around to take up flank with Gutter, drawing her kukri. Gutter lands a solid stab to the Slasher while Rue lands another Magic Missile into it. The Mad Slasher, now truly getting mad, execute another Whirlwind Attack which again misses Gutter and gashes Toerag.
Toerag, now flanking the beast, lets loose with both blades. Though her kukri glances off it's strange hide her long sword strikes true, killing it instantly.
The team waits a moment while Toerag downs a couple of healing potions before going to check the hole in the blue lantern shaft. After examining the room from above Gutter fashions another knotted rope at the edge and the team all descend safely into the room. There Toerag and Rue carefully search the area and Rue notes another glyph, again a personal symbol of some ancient Wind Duke or other.
Toerag then sneaks to the corner of the intersection to spy out the eastern room, spotting the swarming beetles there. She likewise examines the western room undetected but spots no obvious threats. Reporting back to the team they formulate their plan and move out around the corner.
While Toerag and Rue hang back in the hallway, Gutter moves forward and dashes two flasks of oil across the entrance to the room. The beetle swarm (and the giant bombardier beetle they hadn't spotted) move forward to attack.
Gutter ignites the oil on the floor and moves back to the hallway as Rue fires her crossbow into the mass, striking a couple of the beetles. The Swarm rushes toward the group but dithers at the burning oil, getting singed a bit as they do. The Giant Beetle, unseen by the team until now, is made of bolder stuff and barrels through the burning oil, even managing not to catch on fire. Toerag fires at it but her arrow glances of it's carapace.
Gutter fires his bow at the Giant Beetle and manages to pierce it's armor while Rue reloads. Toerag fires again and is frustrated to miss. As the swarm is singed again for venturing too close to the burning oil it falls back a bit, though still intent on the Kobolds. As the Giant Beetle at last chooses who to make a meal of first it skitters after Gutter, who cleaves it nearly in two when it gets too close, killing it.
Gutter fetches out his last flask of oil, steps forward and prepares to douse the swarm on the other side of the fire. Toerag jumps forward the snatch the torch from him so he can have his hands free.
As Gutter throws the flask of oil at the swarm, hitting and dousing it with flammable oil, Toerag tosses the torch at it and lands dead center. The Swarm goes up in flames and quickly disperses.
After the battle is concluded the team has to wait a bit for the oil to burn out, as well as the beetle nest in the southwest corner which has since caught fire. Eventually it's safe for Toerag and Rue to conduct a thorough examination of the room. Their search bears fruit and the team happily loots the three corpses and the mummified hand they find in the mess.
In the opposite room Toerag ventures ahead to scout and fails her Fortitude save, becoming instantly fatigued. Stumbling back out of the room the effect vanishes, however, and the team stands in the entrance to survey the room from safety. Gutter decides to brave the room but fails his Fortitude save as well. Deciding there's nothing for it Toerag and Rue enter alongside him, each failing their Fortitude saves. Before they can begin searching the room in earnest another Giant Bombardier Beetle emerges, stumbling with fatigue, from between two of the stone slabs.
Rue reacts first, firing her crossbow at the Giant Beetle, scoring a critical hit. The Giant Beetle stumbles forward and sprays Gutter and Rue with acid; Gutter makes his Fortitude save but Rue fails hers and takes a whopping 6 points of acid damage. Gutter's retaliatory swing misses but Toerag fires her bow at the Giant Beetle, hitting with another critical and dropping it.
Toerag and Rue then search the room while Gutter stands watch, finding an expensive silver ring on the corpse on the bed. They also elect to snatch the masterwork leather armor it's wearing. Finding nothing else of interest they proceed down the hallway. Toerag searches but finds nothing in the hallway until she reaches the edge of the water at the Submerged Showers.
After surveying the water a bit from the steps and neither spying nor hearing anything unusual Rue summons a Celestial Porpoise to scout out the underwater room for them. The porpoise heads out on a circuitous route through the showers in order to return and report before it departs. Almost immediately after the porpoise slips out of sight, however, Gutter and Rue hear a disturbance in the water roughly where the porpoise should be. It does not return.
After a short discussion Rue summons another Celestial Porpoise and sends it out as well. After a few tense seconds the porpoise returns, with something very angry in the water chasing after it.
At that moment the Celestial Porpoise departs and the water elemental arrives, surging out of the water to attack Rue.
The Water Elemental attacks Rue and slams her.
Rue withdraws out of range of the water as Gutter moves forward to engage the Water Elemental. Swinging at him, the Elemental misses and Gutter follows through with a blow that dispels it in one hit.
Once Rue has healed herself the team prepares to enter the water and examine the submerged room. They stay together while they make a complete circuit around the room, noting the two side rooms and yet another lavatory. They then return to the steps the catch their breath before heading for the eastern locker room.
Once there they manage to surprise the ghoul occupying it.
Gutter and Toerag swim up to engage the ghoul, flanking it, as Rue keeps her distance.
Getting the initiative, Gutter attacks the Ghoul with a respectable hit but Toerag's two-weapon attack (one of which a critical) fairly gouges it and the undead creature is destroyed.
A quick search reveals a pouch in one of the lockers containing an expensive looking ring and some coins. The team head back to the stairs to catch their breath again. After a moment the team heads to the opposite locker room and discovers the corpse there. A quick search of the room reveals nothing of particular interest but the corpse holds the red lantern they've been looking for in a death grip with its right hand. After a bit of prying the team have it loose and swim quickly back to the steps to make a dash for the sarcophagus room upstairs.
Once they reach the room and replace the red lantern where it belongs they consult one another and decide to postpone attempting the windy tunnel until they can purchase oil for all the lamps. To that end they gather their gear and leave the tomb, riding back to the abandoned mine office to camp for the night.
Gutter takes another level of Barbarian
Toerag takes a second level in Fighter
Rue takes another level in Sorcerer
The following morning the kobold team again heads to the outskirts of town. This time, however, they decide to take their chances with the townsfolk and go it alone, hoping the humans have become acclimated enough to kobolds in their town that they won't be attacked outright. After all, they only need oil which shouldn't take long to procure and get back out again.
They aren't in town long before a couple of the town guard find them and accost them. When they are told they're services aren't required it finally becomes apparent to the team that they're being extorted. The two town guard's glower and insinuate that they might meet with violence if they aren't "properly escorted". Though Toerag and Rue are inclined to simply pay the two men and eat the loss, Gutter isn't so accommodating and refuses to pay. Tensions escalate when the guards threaten to jail them outright, at which point the girls finally manage to convince Gutter not to make unnecessary trouble. Grumbling and scowling at the guards he finally concedes.
To their simultaneous relief and disappointment the two guards collect their fee and then blatantly walk away, leaving them to their own devices. The team wastes no time disposing of what loot they can and purchasing oil, then head out of town quickly.
Back at the tomb again the team enters and straightaway sets about filling and lighting the seven lanterns in the sarcophagus room. Once lit, Gutter scales the rope they've left hanging in the blue lantern's shaft to check the trap there. He finds the wind-blowing face is completely gone and the end of the tunnel is now open to the room beyond. Calling them up he waits for the other two members of the team and they then gather to examine the room.
Toerag and Rue search the immediate area but find no sign of traps. Determining that Gutter is best suited to the task, the team sends him out onto the beam to check out the far door. When iron spheres shoot out of the wall he tries to hurry across before he is hit but loses his balance and falls, taking 3 damage from the fall.
After he impacts the loose iron spheres that line the floor of the room Rue, even from her position up in the tunnel, can hear something moving about under the spheres. When she warns Gutter he draws his sword and prepares to defend himself while Toerag and Rue work quickly to fashion they're last remaining rope onto the beam so they can climb down. Before they can do so the Grick bursts from beneath the floor and attacks Gutter.
The Grick surges up from among the iron spheres and swings at Gutter, missing.
Toerag leaves the rope to Rue and leaps down into the room, taking 2 damage and quickly prepares for battle. As the Grick attacks Gutter with all four tentacles and a bit, it misses badly. Gutter's follow up attack misses as well. Rue lands a bolt into the thing but its damage reduction absorbs it.
Toerag again comes out the heroine, taking a 5-foot step to the Grick's flank and landing two hits, one a critical, which drops the beast stone dead.
To their surprise they can hear a faint voice cheering them on during the short battle but now that the fighting is over they can't detect anything. In moments Rue has secured the rope and Gutter and Toerag are ready to climb out again. Toerag sends Gutter up and asks for Rue to come down so they can search the room together. Alastor then appears to Toerag, though Rue can also see him. Both Toerag and Rue make their Will saves against his Horrific Appearance. Alastor then uses the surprise round to move into Toerag's space and attempt Malevolence. Toerag has no chance of resisting and he succeeds. As he disappears into Toerag's body Rue cries out, alerting Gutter to what has happened.
When Gutter scales down the rope again Alastor opens a dialogue with the two kobolds, explaining his situation and making the offer to open the iron door in exchange for their burying his bones alongside his family's. Gutter and Rue eventually agree (especially after he displays his good will by showing the remains of one past victim of the iron spheres...and masterwork banded mail he wears. Once the deal is struck he releases Toerag, who's none too pleased with the entire affair, and the team collect Alastor's remains (and the masterwork banded mail suit).
Departing the tomb the team mounts up and heads out via the directions that Alastor relayed to them. Within the hour they arrive at the farmhouse of the Land family. The team can soon see that someone has come within the last week and excavated the corpses of all five of Alastor's kin. After searching around the empty graves and discovering the wheelbarrow tracks lead off to the west toward Diamond Lake, the team decides to go ahead a bury Alastor's remains in his grave before seeking more clues.
Upon spying the dried blood and unidentified flesh just inside the doorway of the Land Farmhouse the team pulls back and Toerag moves stealthily around the house to peer through various windows. Through the north window she manages to spot the Owlbear lurking near the stairs without being seen, then sneaks back to report to the others. They formulate a quick plan, then take up positions outside the farmstead wall with bows at the ready. Rue then casts Ghost Sound, using the sound of growling dog to lure the Owlbear to and through the door of the house. The Owlbear spots them immediately so they get no surprise.
Everyone fires on the Owlbear as it rushes for them with only Toerag landing a strike.
As the beast lunges forward to engage Gutter he's readied his sword and strikes, landing a critical that drops the Owlbear.
A subsequent search of the farmhouse reveals the baby owlbear cowering within. To the girl's surprise, Gutter takes an immediate liking to it and takes it into his care. Searching in and around the farmhouse produces little else until Rue discovers the rotted remains of a human arm in the rubble. On it a peculiar tattoo can be seen which Toerag, to everyone's surprise, identifies as that of Garavin Vesst, a mine manager who died a year ago and who branded his workers. Clearly whomever this arm belonged to once worked for him. Apparently Toerag's picked up a lot more information about the town on their few visits than the others have.
Deciding that a trip to town is in order the team mounts up and heads for the abandoned mine office. There they spend the rest of the day fashioning a makeshift pen to keep the baby owlbear in before heading out to Diamond Lake. Arriving out of sight of the town, they stake their dogs to the ground and don hooded cloaks, hoping to avoid the town guard's extortion. With some very good luck they manage to make it all the way to Allustan's residence where they meet with him and report what they've seen so far. When they show him a rendition of the symbol they found on the severed arm he recognizes it immediately but can only relay vague rumors about what these ex-employees of Vesst are up to these days. After a bit of cajoling by Rue he agrees to ask around town for them and let them know what he discovers tomorrow. At Rue's request he agrees to meet them at the abandoned mine office instead, allowing them to avoid another uncomfortable walk through the human town.
The following day Allustan arrives at the abandoned mine and relays what he's learned. The man who once owned the arm has been missing for over a week and the gang he belonged to are none other than Balabar Smenk's own gang of hooligans. Also, he informs them, he's sent away for a book from Free City that supposedly lists the proper names of the Wind Dukes, which should make identifying the glyphs in the tomb a simple matter. After getting what details Allustan has on the gang they thank him and assure him that they'll document and report everything they see behind the iron door of the cairn once Alastor's remain are reunited with his family's.
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