Game date: Saturday, December 7, 208
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 9452/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 11085/20000
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 1, hp 4, xp 625/2000
Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 3157/4000
Ahhh, back to the dungeon! Side treks and diversions in the wilderness are fun and add variety and spice to the campaign, but when it comes to being able to run a low-stress "beer and pretzels" game every week, nothing beats a megadungeon. I have my B/X rulebooks, my binder of maps and keys, and my Crown Royal bag of dice and I'm all set!
We did some "housekeeping" and roleplayed the return of the Holy Lantern to the Great Cathedral of Idalium. The Abbess Archura was pleased to see Gulleck complete his quest, and with a wave of her hand, Gulleck felt an odd weight lift from his shoulders. The party was rewarded with a payment of 200 platinum minas and a promise that any curative prayers that they might need from the Church in the future would be performed at half the usual "requested donation".
At the Rusty Lantern tavern, the adventurers were welcomed with good cheer by the regulars, who seemed frankly surprised to see them again. The party caught up on some rumors about what might have been going on in the undercity in their absence, and then made their familiar way to the basement, paying the usual toll of a gold daric apiece, and descending through the well-used trapdoor into the buried city of Ancient Idalium that lies below the bustling city above.
The group attempted to take their usual path to the second level below, but found that in their absence there had been a cave-in, and the alleyway was blocked by rubble. They backtracked to the abandoned town plaza, avoided a group of giant rats that were scurrying around in the shadows, and took another, longer, route. However, they were pleased to find that a passage that had previously been blocked in by rubble now had a small tunnel (about 5' high) excavated through it, braced with timbers like a small mine shaft. In the tunnel they found small mining tools, and suspected that their friends the gnomes were probably responsible for this.
Down to the second level they proceeded (destroying a squad of animated skeletons on the way, which Caryatid caught in a giant web of sticky spider strands). They stopped briefly in the "Wheel of Fortune" room, intending to "haze" the new guy, Simon. In the room were five orcs, one of them spinning on the wheel and coming to a rest as the party entered. The orcs were in good spirits and encouraged the adventurers to try out the "magic table", guffawing as they pushed their way past the party and out the door.
Simon was strapped to the wheel and given a spin, and when he came to a rest he suddenly noticed he could smell a strange, metallic smell that he had not noticed before. He sniffed around and traced to his companions' money pouches. He could smell gold now!
The group had no clear goal in mind for this delve, and decided to go visit Caryatid's "sister" (actually a magical duplicate) who had taken up residence in the abandoned apartments of some long ago wizard. On the way, however, they decided to investigate a scary dark room that they had found many months ago. The room was so dark that not only did lantern light (and now, magical sword light) not even disturb the inky blackness, but Gulleck's natural ability to see in the dark was completely useless. It was darker than Gulleck had ever experienced in his life, and a cold, foreboding fear settled in the PCs' hearts. They knew from prior investigations that there was another doorway across the room, and now Gulleck and Simon carefully moved through the room, trailing ropes behind them that Meat and Caryatid held.
As the two approached the doorway, Simon's nostrils were flooded with the intense smell of gold. Reaching the threshold of the doorway, they, and Simon used the mind-reading medallion that he possessed. Expanding his mind forward to encompass the space beyond the doorway, he became away of a malevolent lurking evil presence. He could not articulate any clear thoughts, but there was something there, something alive and hateful.
Gulleck stepped carefully through the door, and it was as though the darkness broke over his face like water. He entered a room lit by sickly, greenish flames flickering in metal sconces attached to the walls. The cold foreboding feeling was more intense than ever here. Along the wall to the right, there was an altar of sorts, on top of which was a frightening statue or idol of some kind of demon, about five tall with curling horns and wild googly eyes. Despite its hideous visage, it was clearly well-crafted of gold and silver and studded with gemstones. Before it on the altar were a ritual chalice, a sacrificial dagger and other more ominous-looking "tools", also crafted from precious metals and stones. On a stand next to the altar was an ornate ceremonial robe and headdress.
Gulleck approached the idol to get a closer look, and he did so he felt a quickening in his heartbeat, and the eerie cold fear tightened around him. The shadows from the flickering flames seemed to lengthen and converge, flowing together into several man-shaped forms, looming towards him on the walls and even seeming to drift off of the walls towards him...
"That's it! Nope!" muttered Gulleck, and ran like hell, grabbing Simon on the way. They two ran panicked into the hallway, where they pulled the door shut and caught their breath before leaving this strange place behind them.
It was just a short walk along the hallway to the abandoned wizards' apartment that Caryatid's magical duplicate had taken up residence in. Gulleck knocked at the door and a familiar voice called, "Who is it?"
"It's us!" replied Gulleck.
"Could you be more specific?"
(I don't understand why, but we go through this every time they knock on a door...)
Eventually, "Green Caryatid" recognized the voices of Gulleck and "Blue Caryatid" and pulled the door open with a smile on her face. As before, she was effusively friendly, and they exchanged some small talk on their respective adventures in the past few months.
"Oh, as you can see, I have settled in so nicely here. It's such a wonderful place for my research and my quest for personal self-improvement."
Every time she says things like this, Gulleck's face looks more and more alarmed.
She told them of how "that delightful fellow, Professor Zinn" had been doing some research for her, and perhaps they wouldn't mind checking with the sage to see if he had any information for her?
"What kind of research?"
"Oh, well... do you remember the braziers in that room over there? The ones with the strange residues? Well, Professor Zinn has been invaluable in helping me identify the powders and herbs that were burned in those braziers. In the protective circle, there was rosemary, sage, cinnamon, and frankincense. In the summoning and binding triangle was the remains of turmeric, asafetida, and the dried dung of goblins."
Gulleck nearly choked on his own tongue. "The what!?"
Green Caryatid continued as if she hadn't heard. "And after many months of study and research into books found here and provided by the good professor, I was successful! Would you like to see my pet?"
"Yes, he's not the most attractive fellow, but he's going to be ever so helpful to me. Come on in and see!"
And Green Caryatid opened a door on the west side of the sitting room and led them in the summoning chamber, where a large circle and triangle were inlaid into the floor and flanked by waist-high braziers. But all eyes were drawn to the triangle, within which stood a hideous creature: vaguely insect or crab-like, with bulbous eyes and covered in a light filamentous hair - a sort of giant hairy prawn. As they entered it became agitated, and their ears were filled with a terrible hissing and gnashing and clacking of mandibles.
|The Destroyer of the Seventh Nebula|
"Oh shush now," said Caryatid the Green. "Let me introduce you to my pet," she said to the adventurers with a flourish of her hand. "This is Morgluthkluthor, called the Destroyer of the Seventh Nebula, the Blight of Jupiter, the Dark Rain that Falls Upon the Forsaken Desert..."
"That's a bit of a mouthful, though, so I nicknamed him Marcel!" ("Blue Caryatid"'s capuchin monkey gave a screech from his perch on her shoulder.)
"And... why are you keeping him here?" asked Gulleck in shock.
"Oh, he's going to grant me power, wisdom, understanding of the world. I haven't quite decided what to ask for yet, but I will soon."
"Er... we have to get going soon..." mumbled the adventurers.
"Oh, of course. I've enjoyed our visit. I'm so glad you're taking care of my duplicate. Be careful, from what I've learned in my researches, when people are duplicated like that, the copy is usually unstable and degenerate. But be kind to her. It's not her fault she's the duplicate."
That set the "real" (they assume) Caryatid a bit afire, but Gulleck saw an opportunity. "Well, maybe you could ask your 'pet' to stabilize the duplicate?"
"Oh. Well, I could do that. I suppose..." She didn't seem too taken with the suggestion, though.
In the end, the party made their farewells, left Caryatid the Green's apartment with more misgivings than they had entered with, and made an uneventful trek back through the dungeon to the Rusty Lantern again.