Wherein the heroes find multiple surprises atop the Crucible.
The faces of the group are a mixture of shock and horror with the exception of the Frog, who was pulling on his garments that were piled in a heap between some broken pews on the altar room floor. There was no trace of their attackers. A gigantic snake swallowed whole the two furry winged stranglers before gruesomely transforming into a crouching naked human, Frog.
The party seems generally uneasy about the transformation. Uncertain how to approach the topic, the group asks him tentatively about being a snake. He explained that he has several different snake forms. They allow him to take on many different abilities and aspects of snakes, like sensing heat for instance. Back when he lived in the forest, the changes would come during times of stress, but now he apparently can change at will.
Frog turns the questions on Red, asking about the rocks on his hands. Red is evasive and dismissive, denying anything unusual. Red is still feeling weak from the spider poison and can’t wield his hammer or rod. He just grabbed some rocks to smash against the bat-like creatures.
The group turns back to talk about the altar. There is some wonder about how plain the altar appears. If the people here worshipped a bear god, why is it so plain? Red tells them that the altar is in the form of a dwarven anvil. The altar is plain because an anvil is a functional device and the dwarves wouldn’t have decorated it. They would celebrate it’s function. It is ceremonial, because there isn’t a forge present. The geometric marks on the top surface appear to be part of the original design. The marks are small and highly angular. They are about an inch to an inch and a half at the widest. Meander pokes, prods and pushes on the depressions, but nothing happens.
The group leaves the altar room and head back to the entry hall. They decide to enter the southern hallway. The hallway ends at a wall. Down the passage are two opposing doors. The door on the right is slightly open. Stone Man and Broken lead the way down the passage, with Broken carrying the torch. Frog, Red and Meander follow down the passageway. ToughBark follows cautiously at the rear.
Broken and Stone Man enter through the open door. The door is shattered and broken, with the room being a match. One corner has caved in, the hole seen earlier from atop the tower. Among the rubble is a pool of stagnant water. Fungus grows thick on the books and bookshelves lining the walls.
The rest of the group enters the ruined library. Meander sees it is a library, and leaves bored to watch for intruders in the hallway. With his dark sight, he can see in the unlit hall. Broken excitingly checks the books for anything interesting. He picks up a tome and is completely engulfed in a giant puff cloud. Red starts to hum with a deep resonant tone. After waiting for the cloud to subside, he can see that the fungus has rendered the book unsalvageable.
Broken looks through the bookshelves more carefully. The books are all covered in fungus and ruined, but he discovered from metal plates that might not be ruined. Red comes over as Broken picks up the plates and a spore cloud covers Red and Broken. Red starts to cough. Once the cloud subsides, Broken and Red see spots dancing at the edge of their vision, making them feel uneasy.
Broken tries to talk Frog into collecting the fungus. Frog gives Broken a smoldering glare that distinctly conveys what Frog thinks Broken should do with the fungus. Broken begins to have Stone Man collect the fungus, but is unable to determine where to store it. He decides to come back later.
Once free of the think fungal coating, Broken inspects the thin metal plates. They are covered in masterfully worked etchings. Broken deduces that it is covered in some sort of writing. Red examines the plates, but is unable to read them. Based on some of the etchings, he thinks they are of a religious nature. Meander asks about bears, and worked into the etchings, there are pictures of strange looking bears. Red takes the plates for safe keeping.
The group goes back to the hallway and readies to open the other door. Meander starts to open the door. Broken comes up with the torch, shining light into the room. Meander steps into the room. The room appears to be a small sitting room. Meander’s foot brushes against something. He looks down to see a small rope stretched across the entryway, as rocks and debris rain down on his head. He stands in shock from the pain.
Red announces to the group that something is in the anvil room. Two wolves round the corner attack Red. The first wolf to reach him bites him in the vitals. The second wolf jumps up and tries to gnaw on the leather armor covering his chest. Red attempts to fend them off, dodging as the first wolf snaps at him, however the second wolf snaps at his arm, raking it’s teeth across the arm.
The hallway is cramped, with no room for movement to attack the wolves in concert. Frog yells, “Into the fungus room”, and leads the way back into the dark library. The group hears his footsteps lead into the room then hear a scream of horror. Something in the darkness tears into Frog’s shoulder.
Meander runs to the room with Frog, pushing past Broken in the hallway. He enters the library to see the largest wolf he’s ever seen. Meander charges at the wolf , thrusting his spear as he runs past the wolf, but the wolf nimbly dodges out of the way of the spear thrust.Broken enters the fungus room with the torch, revealing the wolf. He yells into the hallway, “Red and ToughBark, get into this room now.” Then he tells the Stone Man to attack the giant wolf.
Red really wants to punch the wolves in the hallway, but a small little knife strikes him in his shoulder. He finds he is facing at least three enemies out in the hallway, with one hidden. He backs into the library to regroup. ToughBark follows him in and goes to a corner, readying his bow.
Stone Man moves over to attack the big wolf. He drives his great sword through the wolf, skewering it and killing it instantly. Moments later the two wolves rush into the room. The first jumps at Broken and bites his arm as he tries to protect himself. The second wolf bites at Red’s chest. Neither is noticeably hurt.
Frog starts to cast a healing spell on himself. Even through the pain and the weight of the armor, he manages the words and gestures, summoning the healing magic. His wounds slowly begin to knit. Meander weaves between the fighting, trying to position himself between the two wolves. He pulls his spear back and jabs the wolf threatening Red. The spear puts a serious gash along the wolf’s chest, stunning it briefly. Red takes vengeance against the wolf, punching the wolf with the rocks collected around his fist. Too weak to use his stout rod or hammer, he is still strong enough to crush the wolf’s ribcage, killing it.
Broken keeps his rapier in guard, looking for an opportunity to strike. He wishes furiously that he wasn’t holding this torch and could use his both his sword and dagger. He lunges with his rapier, narrowly missing the wolf. The wolf jumps at Broken while he is overextended and bites him in the shoulder. Broken returns to guard and lunges again, but he stabs only air as the wolf seems to dance around his blade.
Frog mouths the last few syllables of his healing spell, erasing even the jagged bite wound from the giant wolf. The pain of the wound is still present, but only a slight red mark is visible. He straightens to look about to see who else would need help, when suddenly a new bloom of pain flourishes in his stomach. He grasps the dagger protruding from his abdomen as he falls to the ground in pain. Red casts about for the source of the daggers. “Whatever is throwing daggers at us is in the hallway.”
Meander decides the group has the remaining wolf covered, and turns to chase down the knife thrower. He struggles to make himself faster, but lets his concentration and control of the power slip as the pain spikes. Unsure he could take another bout of pain, and determined not to let the thrower escape, he jogs out into the hallway. Inky blackness pours from the courtyard into the hallway. Through the black, darting up the opposite hall is a small scaly man.
Back in the library, Frog groans as he picks himself off the floor, slowly moving to the far side of the room. Stone Man thunders over to the remaining wolf and swings his great sword down hard, crashing into the cobbles. The wolf scampers away, dodging the massive blow and runs for the hall. Broken instructs the Stone Man to watch out for thrown daggers, and to attack the creature throwing them.
Red watchfully moves out into the hallway, following Meander. He sees the wolf between them, however Meander has his back turned. Meander takes off at a sprint down the hallway with his spear held like a lance, the wolf slipping out behind him and turning into the courtyard. Red lets the wolf go, senses bristling and alert as he chooses his path down the hallway carefully, following Meander’s mad dash.
Meander gave chase to the kobold, not wanting him to get away. He pushes his speed to his natural limit, blazing through the blackness, muscles straining, and put all his effort into stabbing the kobold with his spear, but at the last moment, the kobold nimbly whirls aside. The creature continues his spin around and stabs at Meander with a small dagger, glancing off the scales hanging between Meander’s legs. The kobold narrows his eyes at the scale armor, then takes off running, darting quickly around the corner.
Back in the library, Frog takes some time to recover after the fighting. Broken asks, “Should we go out and help, or stay here?” Frog waves him on, “We should go help.” ToughBark bravely adds, “I’m staying with the light,” nodding to Broken. Broken steps into the doorway, peering into the hallway. Red is standing at the end of the corridor, by the large entryway, illuminated by the light of the courtyard. Red picks his way across the larger hall and disappears into the darkness of the opposite hall. ToughBark and Frog come over to the doorway to gather beside Broken in the dim torchlight. Frog continues past them to go into the hallway.
Meander starts off after the kobold, rounding the corner and slowing to a halt several steps into the corridor. The hallway stands empty, with no trace of the creature. The hallway is completely shrouded by streams of darkness, with flecks of pitch black floating in the air, making it impossible to see past, filling Meander with a sense of dread. The hallway is fairly long and has three doors down the left side and one to the right, most likely leading back to the courtyard. The nearest door to the left is partially open. Meander softly pads over to the door and quietly peers inside. Inside is a small room with a large chest on the far wall. Meander, unwilling to get too far removed from the group, walks back around the corner to find Red.
Red seems unsurprised to see Meander in the corridor. He calmly states, “He’s on the other side of the wall to the left, running away.”
Meander says heatedly, “Come on, we’ve got to get him.”
“Let’s go back to the group, he’s not hurting anything.”
“We’ve got to get him! He’ll come back with 40 of them.”
Red stares at Meander. Meander sighs and says “Alright fine. Let’s get the others, but we’ve got to follow this guy.” He takes off heatedly back towards the group, saying to Frog as he marches past, “Hurry, the little guy is getting away!”
Once back with the group, Meander explains of the little knife throwing kobold, how he ran up the north corridor and he wants the group to go chase him before he brings back more. The group is unmoved by his protestations and insists on resting up first. Since they are waiting, Meander lets the dark sight fade; the shadows in the hall creep back, flickering in the torchlight.
Frog spends quite some time working over Red’s wounds. Afterwards, using his healing magic, most of the traces of injury are erased, leaving only minor wounds.
The hallway being quite close, the group moves back to the larger hall to talk over their plans. As they approach the larger hall, Meander no longer sees the inky blackness pouring in from the courtyard.
Frog announces as if from deep thought, “The big wolf opened the door to the library and went in to surprise us. It was slain so fast, that we don’t really know what it was.” The group talks for awhile about how to deal with the creatures returning. They try to figure out a way to bar the library to prevent creatures from sneaking up behind them. Red offers to block the door with an earthen wall. Stone man guards the hallway while Red turns to the door and concentrates on it. He raises his hands and the stone in front of the door cracks. Sheets of rock shoot up from the ground as his hands rise higher. Broken thinks he is using elemental magic.
The group goes back to the small room with the trap. The small chamber is a sitting room with a closed door to the south. A table and two chairs in relatively good condition sit in the far corner. On the table is a half eaten crow, a crude knife and a cracked mug. The trap was triggered by a rope stretched across the door frame leading up to a net attached to the ceiling. It contained rubble that is now strewn across the floor. The trap would have to be manually reset. Meander announces to the group upon going inside, “No worries, cause I disarmed the trap earlier.”
Meander opens the southern door, and peeks inside the small cramped chamber. There are two beds against the far wall. The far bed looks slept in, with the bedding disheveled. On the near bed are bird bones, a weathered sack and some old tools. Red takes a look at the tools and identifies them as stonemason’s tools. Red looks up at Meander from across the bed. Meander’s eyes are completely filled with inky black. Meander looks over at Broken leaning against the doorway, holding a torch, but instead of a flame is a flickering black void radiating darkness. It dawns on Meander that one of the “curses” the mages placed on him somehow allows him to see darkness as light and light as darkness. So the creepy, evil blackness that he was seeing was not the result of some demon or evil they had sent to haunt him, but just a consequence of seeing light.
While Meander is having a moment of clarity, the group pilfers through the sack on the bed. It is filled with silver coins. Buried in the pile of coins is a cut gemstone with a regular geometric shape. The group gathers the coins and heads back to the main hallway by the altar room. Meander approaches the southern door in the main hall and carefully opens the door. The room is mostly empty, with a few moth eaten rags hanging from pegs in the wall, and an ancient decomposing hat on a table against the far wall. Once they enter the room, Frog spots a small single ironbloom mushroom in the corner. It doesn’t look like enough for the whole town, but it gives the group renewed purpose. Frog carefully collects the mushroom, wrapping it up in his pack.
Meander talks the group into going back to the altar room. He takes the gem from the bag of silver and compares the gem to the depressions on the altar’s surface. The gem looks like it would fit one of the depressions. Meander places the gem.
Miniscule cracks in the altar, that were not visible before, begin glowing red. They form a web of geometric lines throughout the surface of the altar. Everything in the room becomes sharper and clearer. The torch stops dancing, the flame becomes angular and geometric and the light in the room is uniform.
Everyone in the group start to feel better. All their wounds disappear. The weakness from the spiders and the fungus dissipates. Even their thoughts become sharper and movements cleaner. Everything seems to work better. The golem even seems to be effected. All trace of damage from the golem is erased, and his form becomes more angular.
Soon the dazzling display fades, and so does the sparkle in the gem. The gem is still clear, but the light doesn’t bounce off the facets quite as much as it used to.
The group tries to decide where to go next. Meander pushes them to go find the kobolds. Frog tells the group that the mushroom favored the sealed off room that was dark, dry and unused. They should go look for those types of places.