Hearts of Stone

Episode 22: The Chasm

Marblehall, 5th June 216

Kowalski comes trotting up behind the party as Silmaria and Boris make good their escape. This leaves The Fox, Ssh'ta and Caliban, X7-09 and Pascal, Kowalski, Valore and Dave inside the dungeon.

X7-09 moves to unlock and open the door, but pauses when he hears squeals of glee from the other side. He readies his axe and barges in, down a short flight of stairs to what Kowalski will later inform you is part of an old dwarven forge – it has a waterwheel and various pipes which once powered a forge and quenched the iron. Inside are four goblins, gleefully looting the bodies of as many party guests, whom they may or may not have killed. They try to flee, two leaving by another door, one diving into the waterwheel channel, and the fourth dying horribly as Valore wing-buffets him into a corner. In hot pursuit, the group follows the two leaving through a door, which leads them into a short, curving corridor and thence to a room in a completely different architectural style, with a bone-white flagstone floor rather than the rough cobblestones of the previous room, and four stone sarcophagi, one of which has a broken lid through which a rotted face and a single beady eye can be seen.

The goblins flee down a stairway at breakneck speed while Kowalski talks to the undead thing, which explains it is part of a group whose job it is to clear away any meat (such as dead adventurers) lying around when the dungeon submerges again. This they do by eating it. Kowalski and the thing are getting on famously until Valore stabs it with her flaming sword through the coffin lid screaming "Cleanse the undead!", killing it outright. This awakens the others, and a confused melee erupts, ending with all the undead properly dead, most of the party in the room, and Caliban trying to spit bits of undead out of his mouth, with little success.

X7-09 has meanwhile descended the stairway in search of the goblins, and invokes the Diabolist to obtain a light source, specifically a hat with a candle on it and the words "Wilt thou kiss me in the dark, baby?" around the rim in Draconic.

Dave is still fascinated by the swirly things in the glass column, and having been left alone with them, considers whether to smash the glass and let the swirls out, but decides against it.

Ahead in the darkness, X7-09 spies a side passage to the left, and further on, a bridge across the chasm he has come to think of as the dungeon's gullet. On the bridge are a number of goblins, orcs and whatnot with spears and assorted other implements (including a fishing pole), who are trying to fish out shiny things from the rubble flowing through beneath them. He is a little startled by the Fox leaping acrobatically over him and facing off against the orcs, as the goblins flee. Ssh'ta takes up a position halfway down the stairs where he can shoot over the heads of his comrades into the orcs, who form up quite professionally, all things considered, and lay into the Fox with spears. A lucky blow turns his helmet around, and he staggers around perilously near the chasm's lip while X7-09 shoves past him and starts shield-bashing the orcs off the bridge into the torrent of rubble below. Valore flies overhead and does a superhero landing behind the orcs, then starts buffeting them off the bridge with her wings. Caliban brings the Fox a second sword, and he uses it to lay into the orcs.

Kowalski, meanwhile, trusting his colleagues against a handful of orcs, has wandered off down the side passage and discovers the remnants of a villa, apparently from several Ages ago. There's not much left except the courtyard, within which is a statue of a dragon with completely dark eyes, which seem to drink in the light without any sign of a reflection. Around the base of the statue in archaic common are the words: "The Great Gold Wyrm faces the dawn of a new day."

By now all the orcs have been shot, stabbed, and buffeted off the bridge, and the others retrace their steps and follow Kowalski into the villa. From clues such as paintings they deduce which way east would have been when the villa was on the surface, and noting that the statue appears intended to rotate on its base, they turn it that way. A concealed trapdoor pops open, and below they find a chest containing a satisfactory number of gold coins and a shield wrapped in cloth. Unwrapping this reveals a knight's heater shield with Imperial heraldry; the Fox can't quite remember whose. Gathering this up, the party treks back to the bridge and crosses it, descending another short flight of stairs into a further chamber with a door-shaped area of blank stone flanked by two huge statues of armoured yet unarmed guardsmen.

The party start rummaging around, looking for secret doors and so forth, and shortly the blank wall contorts into a stone face and asks in a polite tone what they are looking for. It turns out to be quite friendly and curious about the world outside, and introduces itself as "the Doorkeeper". They in turn ask it about the about nearby dungeon areas, discovering that the orcs come from much deeper in the dungeon and the swirly things upstairs are lifeforce-sapping wraiths.

At length, the Doorkeeper explains that under the conditions of its employment it has to ask them a riddle before they can pass through it to the next level, and declaims:

I am a beast with many faces.
Often, you’ll meet me with my brother.
Though not a spell, I am cast;
Though not large, I am fate’s master.
And though not a friend, you’ll praise me until I bite you.

After some thought, Ssh'ta cries: "A die!" and the Doorkeeper opens for the group, revealing steep stairs heading down.

Alas, at this point a bellow of "AHOOOOGGGGAAAAH!" is heard. The Doorkeeper explains that this is the cry of a submerging dungeon, and the group should leave, as it will compress itself on the way down and unless they are in one of the Sanctuaries – unfortunately there are none close enough to reach before it goes under – they will surely be crushed to death. The dungeon will re-emerge eventually, days or weeks hence.

The party vows to return and continue their discussions with the Doorkeeper at a later time, and sprint out before the dungeon descends into the sinkhole it has made.

Outside, everyone gathers around to discuss events. They decide to split into two teams again, but with a slight rearrangement: Valore will join the former Team Robot, now to be known as Team Angel, while X7-09 will join Team Dragon. Membership is therefore:

Team Angel: Boris, Silmaria, Ssh'ta, the Fox, Valore.

Team Dragon: Hayes, Kowalski, Soreth and X7-09.

As you conclude this discussion, torches approach from the direction of the nearby town.

"Huzzah!" the cry goes up. "It is the Vengeful Company! We are saved! Three cheers for the Vengeful Company!"

You stand by in disbelief as the party guests you rescued cluster round the Vengeful Company, vowing undying gratitude to them.

Meanwhile, those of you with darkvision (Boris, Dave, Kowalski, Ssh'ta) can also see, on a nearby hill, what looks like a 30' tall giant with a wax tablet and an astrolabe, taking notes.

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Sablemage

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