Our cast of players:
- Achmed (Dave): Human Thief, level 5.
- Albrecht (Rick): Human Priest, level 4.
- Pioden (Craig): Elf Warrior/Wizard/Thief, level 2/2/2.
- Tether (Dan): Human Warrior, level 4.
- Tomas (Alan): Human Paladin, level 3.
- William (Max): Human Warrior, level 4.
Total XPs awarded from the previous session: 3,176
As the dust settles, Albrecht tends to Achmed, returning the battered thief to consciousness. Almost as if nothing had happened, the plucky easterner examines the remains of the statues, always curious about such matters, before thoughtfully selecting a chunk of alabaster and pocketing it for later examination.
The rest of you turn your attention to the dais, moving to examine the now empty suit of plate mail armour previously inhabited by your unholy opponent. Several items are scattered around the collapsed suit, the morning star he wielded to such devastating effect, an ebony wand, a steel-coloured ring and a small golden key. Pioden takes the wand and the ring, Achmed the key, and Albrecht the morning star. Achmed examines the ornately carved throne carefully for hidden compartments, finding none, and then shows the key to William, who agrees with the thief that it looks a good fit for the concealed door in the altar.
After debating going back to check the veracity of this theory, you instead decide to press on and head for the last remaining pair of double doors in the veneration chamber. Achmed checks the doors for traps and then you all take up position in a semi-circle around them while Tomas cautiously opens them. The stink of decay permeates this room. Wide shelves are hewn into the stone walls of this room. From the broken bits of ceramic, stone and masonry littering the room, it appears to be a ransacked ossuary. Engravings along the walls depict several knights of the Order of the Sacred Rose, identifying the room as a crypt for the revered dead. Each sepulchre, holding urn and veneration chest is smashed. All the desiccated bodies and bones from the destroyed containers are heaped up in the corner.
Three townsfolk are at work within this chamber, seemingly oblivious to your presence. One holds a shovel, trying to dig away at a broken section of marble floor tile. The other two are sifting through the bones scattered about the room, heaping them onto the large pile. At sight of this desecration, Tomas steps into the room and orders them to leave in a booming voice. As they continue to ignore him, he pulls forth the glowing sword and uses the flat of the blade to club the nearest to the ground. At this, the remaining two seem to snap out of their reverie, one cowering in the corner begging for mercy while the other leaps up and darts from the room in terror. You let him go and Achmed approaches the remaining fellow who pleads for his life and urges Achmed to protect him from Tomas’ wrath. Achmed tries to soothe him as the red mist lifts for Tomas, but nonetheless remains surly, taking practice swings with the glowing sword. Under questioning the man reveals that he and his compatriots were ordered to bury a body in here by voices in his head, that he believed to come from Arden Brightheart himself. He tells you the body is currently underneath the pile of mummified remains in the corner.
Achmed tells him to leave now and the man darts out, keeping as far from Tomas as possible who scowls at him the whole way. Turning your attention to the mound of remains, a quick search reveals the body of a man in his thirties, quite fresh and unspoilt, dressed in a white tabbard embroidered with a rose motif, and with an empty scabbard lying on the floor at his side. At sight of this, Tomas steps forward pushing the rest of you aside and goes down on one knee, proclaiming “my Lord!”. He reverently lifts the body and kisses its forehead, before carrying it to the veneration chamber, where he places it on the floor and begins to strap the now empty suit of plate mail onto it. He then sits the body on the throne, and pins the golden rose brooch back in place, then kneels before it and begins to pray.
Meanwhile, Achmed searches the shelves in the room and finds on one of them a bundle wrapped in leather. Carefully unwrapping it he finds within a dagger entirely made of crystal which pulses with a regular red light as he watches. Unnerved by his find, he wraps it back up and secures it with a length of string before taking it and the scabbard to Tomas in the veneration chamber who pronounces the former to contain a source of evil. Tomas takes the scabbard and tries to sheathe the golden sword within it. While it will go, it is a poor fit and Tomas feels uneasy as soon as he can no longer see the glowing blade and quickly withdraws it again, keeping it firmly in his hand.
At this point, you decide to return to the chapel to further examine the hidden compartment within the altar. Pioden has already determined that it is trapped in some way and both he and Achmed examine it closely, eventually concluding that the key itself is the method by which the mechanism can be disarmed. Taking it, Pioden carefully turns the key in the lock and with a clunk the panel releases. Opening it, Pioden now sees that there was a poison needle trap concealed within and that the key has indeed prevented it from triggering. Within lies a jet black skull, two large black pearls, four flasks of what appears to be water and a large, flat, yellow topaz, the virtual replica of the one you saw (and left) on the frog idol in the temple underneath Skulltop Hillock and the one given to you by Thistle – it is the second Eye of the Night!
Tomas immediately recognises the skull as a source of evil and takes it for safekeeping. Pioden takes the pearls, Achmed the Eye of the Night, and William the flasks. William gingerly cracks open one of the flasks and carefully sniffs the contents before putting a drop on his tongue. It looks and tastes like water.
At this point the townsfolk you left in here, apart from the unfortunate savaged by the escaped ghoul, start to rouse themselves from their previously unconscious state. They appear to be in a state of confusion and most are wondering what they are doing in here. One of them is more copus mentis than the others and after you have explained your presence here, points to the area behind the altar and asks what has become of the body of Dread Watcher and, more importantly, the Sword of Conviction. Seeing your confusion in turn, he explains that it was in here, once a natural cave complex, that Arden Brightheart confronted Dread Watcher and defeated him, although at the ultimate cost to himself. It was the Sword of Conviction that was holding the vile creature in a dormant state, and the shrine was subsequently expanded around the site of the final battle, eventually incorporating the tomb of the paladin himself. You show him the body now lying on the altar and he confirms that this was not the body that was pinned to the wall the last time he can remember entering the shrine. Enquiring after the sword once more, Tomas reluctantly shows it to the man who, with an ever whitening face, confirms that this is not the sword that held Dread Watcher in place.
With ever increasing alarm you realise that you have been hoodwinked. The sword itself is still missing and it seems unlikely that without it your victory over Dread Watcher has the permanence that you had hoped for. The man asks if you have seen Jarson Tender in your time in the shrine. Seeing your bemusement he explains that Jarson is the keeper of the crypt and may have more detailed knowledge of what has transpired here. At your continuing blank looks he tells you that he had a concealed sanctuary somewhere within, presumably near the entrance, but that is itself a closely kept secret passed down from one keeper to the next.
Thanking the man, you advise him and his fellows to leave the shrine immediately and return to Blessings-Be, which they do. Achmed recalls that the only natural part of the shrine remaining is the cave with the pool and statue at the end of the entrance hallway and proposes you return there to investigate more fully. Achmed leads the way back and you descend the set of carved stone steps descending into the cave, cutting roughly twenty feet across the worked stone of the north east end of the entrance hallway. At the bottom, the rough contour of the cavern stretches approximately fifty feet around, with the ceiling reaching nearly thirty feet high in some places. A pool of cool, crisp looking water occupies the north east corner of the cavern and set in the middle of it is the alabaster statue of Arden down on one knee, head bowed in a contemplative pose. His shield is strapped across his back and his sword is in its scabbard. A golden placard is set into the base of the statue but it is too far away to read.
Taking the usual precautions, Achmed ropes himself up and proceeds once more to splash through the water at the edge of the cave, along the ledge concealed about one foot below the surface. Where the ledge terminates, directly behind the statue, he examines the cave wall carefully and quickly finds a door concealed within the rough wall. However, there are no visible hinges or handholds, and no apparent way of opening it. Returning with news of his find, you surmise that clues to the function of the mysterious door may be found on the statue in the middle of the pool. No one is keen on swimming over, not even with the ring of swimming, so Tether and William decide to return to the abandoned market area outside to see if they can find a log suitable to bridge the gap.
The rest of you stay to guard the cave, and Achmed uses the pretext of going to help to slip away and return to the veneration chamber to retrieve the golden brooch from the body of Arden Brightheart. He returns quickly, and in advance of the others, then proceeds along the ledge once more under the guise of professional interest to try out a hunch. He presses the brooch to the concealed door but to no avail. As he returns, William and Tether re-enter, dragging a log they have found outside just about long enough to reach over to the statue.
To be continued…