The group settled down for a late lunch after the encounter with the goblins. The Cleric realized he had brought no provisions for an extended journey, but was talked out of returning to the city by the others. Even though assured he would be taken care of, he wondered if missing a backpack was playing into the other’s schemes to short him on any found treasure. Another hour of travel through the brush following their map and they arrived at their destination. A small valley filled with unusual trees. There was no sign of the ruins, but the map clearly pointed towards the valley itself, so they descended its banks and were able to locate a small path inside.
Once inside, they found a twisted mass of brambles and vines and strange dark trees that seemed fused together, making walls that corralled them further into the valley’s depths. Faced with a fork in the path, the group chose the road less traveled, that seemed to move towards the faint sound of running water. It was not long before they found a small clearing, the overgrowth thick enough to force the taller party members to crouch down. In the clearing were signs of long lost buildings, the first confirmation that they were in the correct location after all. As the party moved in to investigate, one of the mages gave a cry of alarm. The warning came too late, as a large tick came down from the trees to land on the back of the other mage. The oversized bug was quick and the wound it caused deep. The mage fell to the ground near death, as the tick began to suck the last of his life away. Without regard to his comrades’ safety, the dwarf charged in. His axe made a great arc, catching the tick solidly and sending it off the mage, moments before his life was extinguished. Now exposed, the tick was quickly surrounded and dispatched by the party. The Cleric raced to his friend’s side, tending the grievous wound with bandages and prayer. With this aid the mage felt strong enough to continue on, though insisted on a more secure location in groups positioning.
Continuing on, the group soon found another clearing. Those in front failed to recognize the danger the damp ground posed, and the dwarf soon found himself in great peril, as he began to sink in the quicksand. Without hesitation, the Cleric dropped down to free his companion. It was a fruitless effort though, as the dwarf began to pull the cleric in instead. The wounded mage came forward, and laying a hand on the cleric muttered an ancient spell. Renewed with magical strength and vigor, the Cleric was able to pull the dwarf to safety.
In what was to become a common tactic, the group tied a rope around the halfling (who agreed eagerly enough) and sent him to find a way around the hazard. The nimble thief quickly found a safe route and the party soon followed. The sound of running water was louder, and the dwarf and cleric hauled the halfling up to the tops of the trees to scout the surroundings. Not only did the halfling find the source of the water in the form of a swiftly moving stream, but also some standing ruins nearby. Without hesitation the group moved to the ruins.
A single door in a squat stone structure did not look very elven to the group, but was still a structure worth exploring. The strong dwarf pulled the door open to reveal a rather plain room. A large oak table dominated the space and an awkwardly hung rusting chandelier hung over a thick trap door in the center of the room. Another door stood opposite. The dwarf moved to the iron pull rung on the trap door. Straining greatly, the dwarf pulled until his beard bristled, but the only result was the stark reminder of the Dwarf’s severe flatulence. The rest insisted the entry door be reopened immediately.
With nothing to prop said door open, the table was moved over to perform the task. The table protested the move, but finally yielded with an audible click. A small panel opened in the wall as the carefully engineered catch mechanism the table shared with the wall was torn apart. The door properly positioned, the halfing checked out the opening. Inside was a lever. Without thinking, and despite shocked warnings that came too late, the hapless thief reached in and pulled the lever. As the others suspected, a large stone block fell down on the thief’s arm. The little one’s quick reflexes saved his arm, but not completely without injury. The halfling fell to the ground in pain holding his battered arm while another panel opened in the wall.
Peering inside, two ancient potions were found. The mages exchanged glances and quick elven whispers before each of them bravely chose a potion to sample. The first slowly brought an orange herbal elixir to his lips. Showing signs of enhanced speed, the potion was easily identified as one of haste. The subtle frosting of a lock of the mage’s hair though served as a warning to any who would choose to drink the full draught.
Licking her lips, the second mage eyed the thick rainbow hued potion in her hands with careful anticipation. Her eyes narrowing at the other mage’s satisfied grin, she quickly raised the vial to take a sip. The potion warmed her insides, lifting her weariness and satisfying her growing hunger. She made a hasty note of the effect before placing the potion carefully in her pack.
The thief, now a bit more cautious, checked the far door. Against the protest of the others, the dwarf continued to pull at the trap door, the result of his efforts giving the group more reason for an expedited exit. Finding the door both locked and trapped with a deadfall, the thief carefully tried to pick the lock. Perhaps a bit too cautious, as the lock proved beyond his skill to open. Fearful of setting off the trap, the elven mage asked everyone to step aside, and gathering her strength, let forth a great magical force that blew the door open. Its opening failed to set off any trap, and checking the area again, the halfling merely shrugged and laughed at his mistake of thinking a trap was present.
The group moved towards the exit, but the dwarf frowned at the trap door. Rolling up his sleeves for one last try, he was rewarded as the trap door finally gave way with a loud grown and rush of stale air. Holding a torch down, they could make out a flooded room below. The chandelier was relieved of duty and sent down to test the depth of the water, which proved quite shallow. Naturally the halfling was lowered next. Finding a simple room with an ornate door, a moving shadow sent him to panic as the group hastily pulled him back up.
Tying the rope to the heavy table, it was knotted and dropped into the room. Satisfied with its strength, the dwarf descended, and found the room to be quite empty save for a handful of small fish swimming the water. The others soon followed, except for the Cleric who flatly refused the direction of travel. The descent being nearly 12 feet in height, the Cleric’s fear of heights overwhelmed him. The other’s shouted encouragement to no effect. It was the goading of the female elf on the merits of his god that finally moved the cleric into action. Gingerly grabbing the rope, he started awkwardly down. His effort was rewarded by reinforcing his fear as he slipped and fell to the ground below, splashing all with water and groaning at a new pain in his back.
After reassuring the Cleric and helping him to his feet, the door was examined. Strange perverse runes and dried blood marred it’s surface. Unable to discern any meaning, the door was pulled open with great force, showing a suspicious passage with a single matching door at its far end. Quite wary, the halfling was sent to investigate. Repeatedly throwing the ruined chandelier against each section of the floor in front, he progressed slowly and with much commotion. The tactic proved valuable though, as an expertly hidden trap door opened mere inches in front of the halfling, showing a deadly drop into a spiked pit. The trap came complete with past victim. Interested in the ancient corpses moldy pack, the halfling was lowered down (after a wise delay as one of the astute elves picked up the sounds of a counterweight in the wall resetting the trap). Even though the tied knot was suspect, the halfling returned with the sought prize.
The bag was opened and the halfling showed his penchant for blindly reaching into strange objects. The halflings battered arm shot out quickly in pain, a large centipede upon it, it’s bite already festering. Flicking the insect into the pit, it’s poison was expertly tended by the Cleric before too much damage occurred, though the halfling whimpered miserably about his hurt arm.
Despite needing a backpack, the Cleric refused the ruined remains of this one, and the equally ruined blanket within. The handful of iron spikes and hammer were kept by the dwarf, and a leather scroll case inside took the interest of the pair of mages who greedily opened it to find an arcane scroll. It would take some time to learn it’s secrets, but this was just the type of treasure they sought.
The pit proved too wide and long to jump or navigate around so the group pondered many solutions. Finally the elven mage cast her leaping spell to fly across, and used a rope to allow the rest to navigate over to join her. The door on the far side proved difficult to open. They would not need to worry long though, as all the noise had attracted 3 zombies who began to bash the door from the other side. Suddenly feeling quite confined in the corridor, and without time to get back over the pit, the group readied a defense. The door soon gave way before the tireless dead and they moved towards our heroes. The Cleric stepped forward and calling upon his god, sent one of the zombies away with his power. The other two continued in, exchanging attacks with the dwarf. Working up the courage to try again, the Cleric’s proclamation turned another of the foul beasts.
The third proved too stubborn, and even an expertly fired arrow proved ineffective against it. The zombie mauled both the dwarf and the cleric before the halfling was able to light it aflame with a torch. Between blade and flame, it was finally dispatched. Breathing heavily, the group did not pause, hurrying back over the pit quickly, and setting their own trap.
Not much later, the 2 zombies who had previously fled, returned, bolstered once again with the unnatural need to feed on the living. The halfling stood alone to meet them. Stumbling forward they fell into the covered pit, as the small thief was whisked back to safety with total confidence in his companions. It was here that the group finally sat down to rest, exhausted, and most of them banged up, to consider their options. Set up camp here and continue their exploration, or retreat back to the safety of civilization?