Session date: Monday, July 6, 2015
Game date: Saturday, April 27, 208
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 2, hp 10, xp 3610/4400
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 8, xp 4434/5000
Gaspar, Fighter 1, hp 3, xp 509/2000
Ylil, Thief 2, hp 5, xp 1691/2400
Once again, we had a small group and the Dynamic Duo of Gulleck and Caryatid dared the dungeon alone. Now that they had defeated the sinister necromancer Gregor Snapespindle, they were eager to put the grim catacombs behind them and explore less forbidding portions of the second level of the dungeon. In particular, they were hoping to find the Goblin Market that they had heard occasional mention of in previous sessions. They knew that it was somewhere vaguely to the north of the temple of hedonism. Unfortunately, there were also orcs in that direction and they were keen to avoid a major confrontation.
In the week that had passed since the last session, Gulleck had stored the Beating Heart inside a locked metal box in their vault below the Rusty Lantern. Although he was no longer carrying it with him, it still seemed to exert a baleful influence on him. He had grown pale and somewhat gaunt, and his eyes had begun to bulge disturbingly. His hair was thinning and losing its color. He found himself preoccupied with thoughts of the Heart with growing frequency, and its disruption to his sleep was taking a toll. In game terms, he had lost one point of Constitution between sessions! "Oh great, I'm turning into Gollum," joked his player.
Through the undercity they went, passing through the temple of hedonism and using their temple robes to get past the crystal statue that guarded the stairs down. There was no one in the lower level of the hedonist temple, and they passed quickly through the north door into the halls of the second level. Soon they came to a place where two savage, bestial men stood guard near a dented copper gong. They looked aggressive, and had drawn rusty swords.
"You pay toll to go past us! Give us everything you got!"
"Uh... want some wine?" Gulleck offered. The orcs didn't accept the wine, and still wouldn't let them pass without a toll.
"What's through that door there?" Gulleck asked, indicating a door on the east side of the corridor near the party. The orcs glanced at each other and sniggered. "Unguarded treasure!" sneered one.
Well, that sounded suspicious, but the party decided to go through that door in search of a way around the orcs rather than starting a fight outside what they suspected was the lair of the entire tribe of orcs. The door led to a very empty room, with more doors on the north and south sides of the room. The adventurers moved cautiously into the room, and Gulleck stepped over to listen at the north door.
Suddenly, the south door was flung open, and half a dozen orcs came screaming out of the doorway. Their eyes were bloodshot, and their muscles bulged with battle rage. It was an ambush! Gulleck's retainer Gaspar was immediately run through by an orc's sword and collapsed with a cry. Caryatid was viciously wounded by another of the orcs. Gulleck quickly ran back to the melee and planted his axe in the chest of the orc that had killed his retainer, but the damage had been done. Caryatid drew forth the crooked wand of fear, and with a wave of the wand the orcs were suddenly overcome with terror. "It's a demon!" the orc leader cried, and ran for the door back into the hallway. The orcs practically fell over each other trying to escape. Only one had withstood the powerful magical fear. "Uh, guys?" he said as he looked back and forth between his fleeing comrades and the adventurers. Not liking the odds, he bolted for the door as well, but a well-aimed sling stone from Ylil cracked him in the back of the head, and he too fell to the ground.
"Well," mused Gulleck, "on the bright side, we're very close to that resurrection pool!" So Caryatid and Ylil hoisted up Gaspar's limp body, and they moved into the hall. The two orc guards up the hall gasped when they saw the adventurers emerge. "Oh, shit!" one exclaimed, having just seen his fellows run screaming out of the room. "Yeah," said Gulleck, "you just mind your own business!"
While they had been collecting themselves in the ambush room, an urgent, pounding drumming had started up. Along with the insistent thumps echoing through the halls, they could hear faint yells and shrieks, like war cries. Gulleck remembered with some trepidation that there had been large primitive drums in the hideously defiled temple that was just across the hall from the resurrection pool. And as they started making their way through the halls towards the pool room, it did seem that the ceremonial drumbeats got louder and louder.
But as they approached the hall leading to the resurrection pool, the air was filled with even stranger noises. A hollow, whimpery trumpet sounded, and from out of the darkness came a number of bizarre creatures. They were at least eight feet tall, huge hairy beasts with long lanky limbs. Their eyes were yellow and bulging, and nasty fangs jutted from their massive jaws. They loped down the corridor with an unnatural silence.
"Make way!" cried one of the creatures in an incongruously high-pitched, hooting voice. "Make way for my mistress, the Queen of Nightmares!" The adventurers, badly wounded by the orcs, wanted no trouble from the creatures and flattened themselves up against the corridor walls to allow them to pass. A number of the giants passed them, and then came four more carrying a palanquin draped in black curtains.
"Halt!" came a cold voice from within the litter. "I wish to examine these creatures." The curtains were drawn back, and the stern face of an old woman peered out at them with an unnervingly predatory and appraising air. She wore a plain metal coronet on her brow. The crone looked at Gulleck's gray and sickly visage, and then at the limp and bloodied body of Gaspar between Ylil and Caryatid and her own bloodied garment.
"What poor specimens you make. You are clearly unfit to be my slaves. Perhaps we shall meet again when you are in better fettle, and you shall then be granted that honor. Onward!" she shouted to her bearers and attendants. "To the Goblin Market!" The trumpet blew again, and the lanky beasts resumed their loping march and the procession had soon moved out of sight down the hall.
"You know, this is a profoundly weird place," stated Gulleck. The drums were still echoing from further up the corridor, and when they got to the door that led to the temple they could clearly hear the drums and bestial screams coming from the other side. They crept by that door as quietly as they could and slipped through the low rounded door that led to the circular chamber of the pool.
Closing the door behind them, the savage drumbeat was thankfully muted, and the peace of this strangely warm and humid chamber put their minds at ease. Gaspar was carefully stripped of his armor and equipment, and lowered gently into the pool of slippery liquid. Moments passed, and then, as with the others, Gaspar's arms came thrashing out of the water and he pulled himself to the surface, gasping for air and in shock of what had happened. The vicious wound to his chest was now vanished as if it had never existed.
While Gaspar dressed himself again, Caryatid contemplated the pool. When Gulleck had gone in some months ago to retrieve Twiffle's inert body, he had been filled with a sense of well-being and gained a point of Constitution. Caryatid decided she wanted to give it a go, too. Not wanting to get her robe wet, she stripped completely naked and submerged herself in the water.
It was quiet and peaceful below the surface of the pool, and Caryatid felt her body suffused with a feeling of vitality and well-being such that she had not felt in as long as she could remember. She was healed completely of the wound she had received from the orc, and her Constitution was permanently raised by one as well.
Pulling herself out of the pool, Caryatid dressed herself again and the group headed back out into the hall, hoping to make another attempt at finding the Goblin Market. They crept by the door with its primal drumbeat and returned to the hall with the orcs. They found the orcs rather subdued and timid, and this time they didn't mention any toll. Gulleck asked them about the Goblin Market, and they said it was off to the north and then through the caves. "What's between here and there?" "Old empty apartments."
But while Gulleck was talking to the orcs, Ylil heard a noise coming up the corridor behind him. The adventurers turned around to look, and coming out of the darkness, naked and dripping with the liquid from the pool, was Caryatid!
"Gulleck, why did you guys leave me? When I got out of the pool you were gone, with all of my stuff! And... wait, who's she?"
The other Caryatid could barely restrain her glee. "This is totally awesome! I've got a twin!" And the two orcs were just perplexed. "This is a profoundly weird place," said one to the other.
Both Caryatids were adamant that each was the true, original one, and the newly-arrived one was not pleased that the "imposter" had taken all of her things. Gulleck offered one of the togas from the temple of hedonism to the newly-arrived Caryatid, and they decided to abandon further explorations for the day, and returned to the Rusty Lantern. They sent the first Caryatid up the rope ladder first, and then after the men, the other Caryatid followed. The guards at the top of the trapdoor did a comical double-take, and then one shook his head and said:
"This dungeon is a profoundly weird place!"