Date: Mirtul 6th, 1491 DR
The party quickly found the cellar door as described by Stannor, surrounded by several old wagons that have been left to rot in the open. There was a large lock on the cellar door, which Ulryn had no difficulty picking, even though he wouldn’t have considered himself an expert at such a task.
Beyond the cellar door, instead of a cellar, a muddy, dark tunnel with supporting, but old beams every 10 feet or so, sloped downward. There was a coffer just inside the door, along with a pile of sand with extinguished torches thrust into it. The coffer had flint and steel, along with fresh, unlit torches. The party didn’t use them, they had Farideh’s light spell, as well as the driftglobe.
The tunnel headed south in more or less a straight line before opening out into a huge cave. This wide, irregularly shaped cavern had a floor of smooth bedrock. Damp dirt and stone, with tree roots protruding
here and there, made up the walls. A stone slab — a door with a rusty pull-ring — stood to the east. By the stone door, a couple of well-used cloaks and a waterskin were on the floor. After some discussion Ulryn and Natas donned the cloaks and went to the front of the party, ready to bluff their way past any guards.
They pulled the door open by the ring, it slid open easily. Beyond a tunnel of dressed stone sloped downward. The party proceeded in cautiously. About sixty feet in they came to two stone statues of dwarves to either side of the passageway. Examining them, the two bards saw there were gaps behind the statues and deduced they were doors. They soon found the activating mechanism, and the door/statues slid aside revealing more passageways. One led to an area that had caved in decades ago, maybe longer. Another headed straight north, while the passageway they were originally on headed east. They decided to split up, with Farideh, Kallista, and Windypop staying near the statues, while Natas, Ulryn and Esplen moved eastward.
They had gone a short way, when Esplen wrinkled her nose.
“Death up ahead,’ she said. Soon the others could smell it too, the sickly odour of rotting flesh. The passageway turned a couple of times, and they found themselves suddenly in a room with three corpses and gnawing on them were three giant rats the size of small dogs. The rats were rooting among the bodies, stopping to chew flesh they’d pulled free. Scuttling noises came from narrow crevices in the walls, and two more rats the same size, attracted by the movement and light, emerged, baring their teeth. The rats wanted to defend their food, but the only way to get past the rats to the corridor beyond was to kill them. In the end the rats looked fiercer than they were, and the party slew them without taking any injuries. They examined the bodies, which were two young men perhaps in their late twenties, and a younger red haired woman. Their bodies were badly gnawed and chewed on, but it was clear a triangle symbol had been carved in their foreheads. They looked like they had been killed with dagger thrusts to the chest.
“Sacrifice?” suggested Ulryn. He was familiar with such things as a slave of the drow.
“That girl is one we have heard about,” said Esplen. “She went missing, remember?”
“Let’s continue on,” said Natas. “This is bad. I think we should just look around for a little bit longer and then get out of here.”
“Scardey,” said a muffled voice from his pack.
“Oh shut it,” said Natas.
“You know,” said Esplen quietly to Ulryn, as Natas moved ahead, “I still can’t tell how he does that ventriloquism. Is it bard magic?”
“Some secrets must be kept by the performer,” replied Ulryn. Esplen had the sense that he was grinning behind his mask. She thought maybe underneath the mask he actually looked like his mask. She had never yet seen his face underneath it.
The tunnel opened into a square room. This room held a wonder. In the center of it, a black rock about a foot across hovered three feet from the floor. They were intrigued, and found they could move the rock about with a touch, and Ulryn’s detect magic spell found there was a roughly cylindrical area 20 feet across that had some kind of permanent anti-gravity magic in operation. The magic was old, it was slowly decaying, and in a few decades, perhaps a century, may have faded entirely.
The next room they entered contained another surprise.
[To be continued]