Rappan Athuk

25 Highsun 945 (2)
Sunset, 60F, light wind, the Graveyard of Rappan Athuk

There the party stood before the great doors of the mausoleum, wondering how to get past the massive steel portal. The brave clandestine types stepped forth to attempt to pick the lock, but the mechanisms were well beyond their ken. Souka Yant then pushed the ne’er-do-wells aside and called upon some horrible blood magic to increase the potency of her spell. Fickle as the powers of magic are, her first attempt failed, her spent lifeforce wasted. After some divine healing from her friends, she made a second attempt, again cutting herself to gain power. Suddenly she was aware of all the doors nearby, and the one before her simply vanished.

Damp, musty air rolled out of the mausoleum, as the last of the sun set over the edge of the depression 50 feet above them. Near the doorway, broken bits of weapons and bone were visible. Torches and lanterns were lit, and Concorde cast a spell in preparation of facing evil, which would identify its location, should it be hidden. And the spell lit up the entire space of the mausoleum in his eyes, causing him to take a step back. Not only did the floor raise a concern, he could detect some powerful evil entity lying within the massive stone coffin in the center of the crypt.

The charmed gargoyles were sent in to remove the coffin lid as the party prepared where the steel doors formerly stood. A huge cackling skeleton arose from the stone coffin, its bones shining like black steel, and eyes glowing red pinpoints in unholy darkness. It screeched a frightful sound that made skin crawl, and two of the gargoyles fled, and those in the door had to harness their wills to stand fast.

Acting quickly, missile weapons were aimed and shot as the remaining gargoyle gouged its opponent, and a mighty strike felled the evil thing. The fight was over in moments, but the black skeleton cackled maniacally as it was destroyed.

Gathering their breaths after the brief exertion, those standing in the doorway notice the mausoleum floor beginning to rise! They could easily run out the front door, but then they’d be blocked and stuck in the graveyard overnight. They had to find a way through the crypt, and Concorde’s spell told the way.

Athalis’ elven eyes found the actual secret trapdoor which the spell only hinted at, and a few of the party made a dash for the mule for those hundreds of pounds of gear and rations they had it haul along. In the 40 seconds it took to unstrap the bags the floor rose nearly four feet, but they threw the bags up, pulled themselves up, and raced to the back of the empty mausoleum, as the ceiling was nearing head-height. No fear.

The smell down the secret ladder was revolting. Apparently Rappan Athuk was rotten in every sense, death and decay overwhelming Thasaidon, Cerngoth’s Brother, as they made their way ahead into the darkness. The remnants of the evil detection spell wore off, but dwarven gold sniffing abilities kicked in, and the party discovered a room with a massive cave-in at the back. Near at hand was an old wooden coffin, its lid loose and apparently long plundered. Someone smashed the lid open, and indeed it was empty. Souka Yant sent her gargoyles in before the ruffian could destroy the rest, as she desired a palanquin fashioned out of the coffin bottom for her charmed stone creatures to carry her on.

Vanity sated, the party proceeded in another direction, since it looked like a week’s work to clear the cave-in, according to Radek. The cavern walls changed to carved stone floors and walls, and the first chamber they found held a number of skull piles, neatly organized. Broken bones lay around, and seeing nothing interesting, they moved on.

A casket lay in the next chamber, the on the floor a well-trod rug of strange design. The casket looked empty and the rug worth nowhere near the effort to haul away, so forward again they went, taking the clearest route (following the rat larger tunnels would be easy enough for the halfling, but the rest of the party would have to crawl).

The stairs leading out of the room sprung a trap on Kit, or nearly did, as some halfling luck saved her by a hair. Instead her step just dropped the lid, and her foot hung there a few inches over some black-tipped downward-pointing spikes, which surely would have trapped her foot. As she counted her blessings the party turned in surprise at….

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25 Highsun 945 (1)
The Graveyard above Rappan Athuk

The blessings of Dwerfater upon them, the party regathered in the middle of summer, after each fulfilled personal quests imparted by the dwarven deity. Stronger and perhaps more able, the party had grown to 17 members, newcomers arriving from Renderby and other nearby hamlets and fishing villages. A new cleric joining the party offered to carry extra gear on his mule, sharing dungeoneering supplies and trail rations. In all, a rather enormous group departed Zelkor’s Ferry, ranks of both the holy and the base, and a recently-acquired set of magical coconuts granting supernatural speed overland.

Along the way, as the party was setting up camp the second evening, they were accosted by a group of four trolls, who were ostensibly guarding the nearby bridge over the Canyon River. Cowed by the troll warband, and owing to the fact that an attack did not immediately ensue, the party opted to parley in hopes of safe passage. The apparent troll leader suggested 30 gold coins would be enough for them to ignore the party today, and the adventurers were quick to agree to that sum. Money exchanged hands, and the rest of the night passed uneventfully.

Three uneventful days later, after following the eastern coast of the Sinnar Ocean back south toward where they discovered Rappan Athuk, they created stone cairns to guide them to and from the shore to the graveyard they’d discovered. The dervish had no troubles finding the way back, which they’d only trodden a month ago. In a matter of hours the party arrived at the graveyard, just as the sun was going down…

Finally, the southern mausoleum stood before them, all eight green gargoyles perched atop. Seems Rasmus Pye was fully truthful about the former gargoyle eyes of jet that the party sold and which had somehow reformed into gargoyles again and wrecked his shop on the way out. However, this time the party was ready. The green gargoyles simply, presumably, watched as they approached and lined up across the small depression between them.

Magic Missiles and regular missiles and Words of Command were all thrown at the idle gargoyles, and before they could begin to act, nearly half of them were dispatched or flying away under the command to “Retreat!”. As the battle ensued, the rest of the gargoyles fell from the roof or out of the air as they were swooping in, or else they fell prey to the powerful magics of Souka Yant’s Charm spell, and only one landed blows of any significance, though Kit was nearly slain by the stony bite and gore from its horns. Still, the party that had once nearly been entirely killed by these green-stone gargoyles made seemingly easy work of them, their new allies making the numbers overwhelming in the party’s favor.

Now five gargoyles lay dead on the ground or dying on the roof of the mausoleum, three under the charm control of Souka Yant, and the party must decide how to proceed. Before them, the massive steel doors of the mausoleum looked untouched by the passage of time, and the intricate lock on the door was well beyond what the roguish types had seen before in their practicing in small human villages. Probably of dwarven manufacture, if they pick it, it will be quite an accomplishment!

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26 Highsun 945 (4)
Late morning, underground, one level below the Lair of the Dung Monster

No sooner did Baba Zeez hack an opening through the northwestern door with that handaxe, the northern door was heard to be unlocked and thrown open. The man standing in the door could not be seen, as he carried no light, but he called into the room, the party’s torches and lanterns lighting up the group clustered near the door.

The party made it clear they were not invited and possibly even here to loot the place, so the huge man strode into the room, a great club in one hand and wearing soiled leathers and a loincloth. He smelled like he lived down here for many years and attacked like a madman. The party overcame him quickly though, despite his mighty blows, Grit managing to grapple him, and then The Rev throwing a paralysis spell. Not planning to take prisoners, and figuring this hulking stinking warrior would be of no help anyway, they just cut his throat and let him bleed out.

While The Rev started his hour-long penance for offending his deity (not very shocking, since he could not even remember his name sometimes), the party explored beyond the freshly hacked-open door. The corridor beyond twisted around and distantly a rumbling sound could be heard, reminding listeners of the spiked ball they’d discovered earlier. Not wanting to split up from The Rev, the party lingered and snacked, hoping he’d wrap up his business quickly.

Unfortunately, Rappan Athuk had other ideas. Suddenly, in the hall beyond the hacked door, a flood of darkness came forth, devouring illumination from lanterns and magic shields alike. Accompanying the blackness was a soul-shredding shriek that sent half the party fleeing. Those who kept their wits were in for a dire battle in utter darkness. The shrieking was almost surely that of a black skeleton, which they’d first encountered in the entrance mausoleum, so clerics assumed they could attempt to turn these undead. During melee, it was certain it was the black skeletons, sword and axe clanging on metallic bones. However, these undead were found to be incredibly powerful, and only one turned, and another was magically frightened, but the ones remaining killed Concorde and nearly felled Baba.

Baba shouted to run, and Grit ran toward the skeletons! “Not that way!” yelled Baba as he ran past the confused Grit, jumping wrecklessly through the hacked door, Souca Yant in tow. Thinking quickly Beilar started casting her magical force spell. “Please let it not be apples,” she thought, and was lucky enough to get not one but two force shields, which she slammed behind Grit as he climbed through the door, black skeletons right on his heels.

The party gathered up The Rev and fled the outer room before the force shields expired. They took the filthy madman’s key, from wherever the Rev found it on his corpse, and locked the northern door behind them, hoping to trap the skeletons within. After a few moments, they believed it worked, as no sounds of pursuit were heard.

Grumbly showed the party the room he discovered when he was “scouting ahead for an escape route” during the battle with the black skeletons. There was a large bloody hook on the wall by the archway entrance, and in the far corner was a large “nest” made of rags and skins and fleas, which was presumed to be the bedding of the madman. They looked around briefly, and seeing mostly the remains of what must have been old meals strewn across the floor, left the way they came.

Down the hall the other direction were a series of doors. The first was locked, but Velma unlocked it readily with her trusty thieves’ tools. Apparently not having seen light nor food for a long time, the dozen or so giant rats within cowered in the corners when the party opened the door. The party had no trouble hacking the rats to pieces, and then they searched the room, but found nothing. Why had someone locked giant rats in here?

The next door was similarly locked, and when opened revealed a room also full of giant rats, but these had all been slain months ago, now quite rotted. Grit spotted a spittoon in the corner, which had a nice brassy gleam on the outside. The inside was full of a thick brown liquid, which he promptly stuck his hand into to root around for hidden treasure. He felt something. It was a chain! And when he yanked it out, brown liquid splashing into his surprised open mouth, there was a red gem hanging at the end. “Shiny!”

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26 Highsun 945 (3)
Mid-morning, underground, Lair of the Dung Monster

Standing in the midst of a heap of dead giant rats and their ratman masters, the party turned to see if Radek might somehow have survived that deadly attack of choking dust, but the blood running from the corner of his mouth made it clear he’d gone back to the Dwerfater. So his pockets and pack were looted, though his gift from the Dwerfater, the Warhammer of the Goblin King, disappeared from whence it came.

Searching one of the ratman bodies up on the ledge, the party found the ratman just wore ragged old clothes and carried short sword and short bow. An empty vial nearby suggested possible use of poison in the earlier barrage. The other two bodies were left alone to avoid the risks of getting up to them, and the ratman who leapt down to attack in melee was no better armed than the others. Exploring the large rat tunnels these creatures emerged from did not appeal to the party, and the stairs down could wait for a bit more reconnaissance.

So they went back out to the large chamber where the underground stream ran through and, after navigating the outer edges of the stoney chamber, they looked for some way to cross swift-moving water. In the end, it appeared the shortest jump would be about seven feet with a running start, just a bit longer than anyone was comfortable clearing with absolute certainty. So Velma tied herself to a rope, handed the other end to Grumbly, and had a go. She stuck the landing, no sweat.

The other side of the stream blocked off a smaller area of the cavern, not remarkably different than the northern side. However, exploration of the southern walls showed evidence of burn marks from floor to ceiling along some 40 feet of wall. Velma avoided getting too close to that and poked her head into the various ratholes that were apparent. In one slightly larger hole, she could see the remains of a body with no head. Only 15 or 20 feet away, she felt she could get to it easily. And she could! But as she reached out over the corpse to grab the helmet she could see lying nearby she was suddenly swarmed by a dozen giant rats!

She tried to make a break for it, but they came over her too fast. Quick-thinkers on the other bank pulled on the rope to yank her out of the rats toward the stream, and at the same time her dead weight on the rope helped lead a healer across to her as he splashed through the stream. Somehow he just managed to lay hands on her as he hit the southern shore, causing the rats to scurry away for a moment. Baba Zeez jumped across to assist directly, while others fired ranged attacks, and they beat all of them off Velma in short order.

While the party worked to get the beaten Velma back across, Baba Zeez climbed into the rat tunnel she’d found to see what had gotten her interest earlier. He found the headless corpse and the broken helmet nearby. He grabbed the old headgear and investigated the cavern beyond where the giant rats came from. Finding nothing else, he emerged and joined the party on the northern shore.

Since nothing further was obvious to explore that wasn’t some kind of rat hole, even a man-sized rat hole, the obvious way to proceed was to continue down the stairs that seemed to be guarded by the ratmen.

Down they climbed, some 100 feet according to Grumbly. The room at the bottom was a scene of animal carnage. Giant rat bodies were strewn everywhere, blood splattered on the walls, not unlike the carnage they’d created above, but the wounds were seemingly from some large animal. There was not much other evidence in here, and on further exploration, the four doors leaving the room were all found to be locked.

Pretty much choosing at random, since no other clear indications were available, they tried to unlock a door using their thieving tools. The first attempt failed, but a more deft hand succeeded, and they were through. Not far down the passage they found a room containing a massive sarcophagus. Leaning on one side was the corpse of a hobbit, leaning on a rotted old backpack. Inexplicably, the room was icy cold as well, and the northern hall out of the room had a great racket coming from it, which turned out to be a 4-foot spiked ball that rolled around on its own apparently. The hobbit’s rotted backpack contained rotted food and a rotted pouch. Baba Zeez’s persistence paid off though, because the rotted pouch contained 120 silver coins!

Since the northern hall with the rolling spiked ball did not look like a safe way to go, they backed out and tried another door. The next door resisted all efforts to have its lock picked. Even Souca Yant tried an unlocking spell, but nothing worked. Baba remembered seeing a hand-axe lodged deeply in the northern door, so he yanked it out and started hacking at the locked door that resisted the best lock-pickers the party had. After 20 minutes of loud chopping, Baba indicated the way forward was cleared. The rest of the party looked at the mangled door, splinters sticking out everywhere, and only room to squeeze past. Oh well…

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26 Highsun 945 (2)
Morning, underground, Lair of the Dung Monster

It was surely still early, and whether the sun was up was a matter of debate down there. The well-hidden, lonely and clearly insane creature slain, the party gathered up the actual valuables it kept, and struck out into what seemed to be the only clear way forward, the other options being rat tunnels that only a halfling could negotiate.

They set the dervish out in front once the hallway turned to a tunnel that narrowed to single-file, she being able to detect traps as well as put up a good fight in a pinch. The rest of the party carefully followed behind, just in case she missed anything. She announced she could hear water ahead, likely some underground stream. Farther along, the chittering of rats. After 50 feet of this careful progress, the tunnel widened into a large natural cavern, the water still out beyond the edge of torchlight.

Suddenly huge numbers of rats scurried across booted feet, temporarily flooding the floor with disease-carrying rodents, but none attacked. A woman’s voice from within the cavern called out for help suddenly, the voice vaguely elven in tone, and a couple of the men in the party strode forward to help! But the dark of the cavern caused slow progress, and only one of the dwarves managed to step out of the light for a bit to see a humanoid figure scramble over a 10-foot pile of rubble that looked like an old cave-in.

Some headed south to discover the quickly moving stream that cut through this area. Most others though moved toward the rubble wall, asking for lights to be doused or covered, trying to find out where the woman went. Those with infravision clambered over carefully to see what was on the other side. Just as their eyes adjusted and started to make out the details of a chamber with rat-holes up high, only accessible by rock shelves and ledges, a dozen feet off the ground. The footprints of the woman who ran through were barely visible as their heat faded, and various warm-bodied shapes were apparent near the rat-holes. One of the larger bodies made a throwing motion and a cold object could be seen sailing toward the four adventures on the top of the wall…

The cloud of dust that exploded from the thrown bag caused the four to cover their mouths and duck for cover, but Radek was slow to react and inhaled a lungful of it, causing him to cough and sneeze and choke… and die.

The first shots were in the dark, all those fighting able to see the heat of life. The one who threw the sack fell into a magical slumber, and his apparent mate cried out and charged int. As the battle began to intensify, many of the party surged over the wall, bringing their lights so all could see.

It was dozens of giant rats, crawling over each other and the entire base of the wall to claw and bite at the party. The “mate” who ran to attack was apparently humanoid, but his build and features were strongly ratlike, enough to call him “rat-man”. Poisoned arrows were shot from the high positions as the giant rats stormed the front lines. Spell casters managed to keep the attackers at bay for the most part, either putting them to sleep or commanding them to attack each other.

After a solid minute of chaotic fighting, the battle ended with the party victorious… Most likely.

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26 Highsun 945 (1)
Morning, underground, Lair of the Dung Monster

The party turned back toward the entrance, where they’d climbed down from the southern mausoleum, but as expected, the ladder went all the way to the ceiling of the room above, providing no egress. So they made do in the space below the stairs, just as it opened up into a door with a room. Souka Yant ordered her charmed gargoyles to stand watch over the door, which also received a deeply-struck iron spike.The chamber was cramped, and Grit’s stink made it hard for everyone to sleep, but they all fell out eventually…

Until at some small hour of the morning the gargoyles at the door alerted the party to the presence of something beyond, which could be heard to be a clawing, scrabbling noise, which grew louder and more insistent as the party woke and armed themselves. The smell of living flesh had brought the undead, and they were forcing their way in! As the spike in the door finally gave, the party launched an assault against half dozen scrawny pale creatures with gaping maws of rotten teeth and filth under their nails. The gargoyles took the worst of their paralyzing strikes, as the party attacked from range.

Having slept most of the night it was impossible to go back, and so the arcane spell-casters were unable to recover their spells. The rest of the party felt the fatigue as well, but had no ill effects, at least for the first night. The way back was still shut, so they proceeded back to the southerly branch from the room with the red ant skeleton.

Not far down into the inky darkness and rough-cut stone walls, they found what must be a secret door, cleverly painted to blend into the walls, but obvious to the touch, being made of wood. As the party stopped to search for a mechanism by which to open the portal, the rear guard called out that they were under attack! Another of those hallway-filling gelatinous creatures was crashing down over the back ranks!

Old Souka Yant was absorbed, picked up by the thing, her gargoyles and other nearby party members only just barely dodging out of the way in time. The paralytic jelly that constituted its body sent electric shocks through her body, causing near-death. At that moment her charm spell that had controlled the gargoyles stopped, and the party had three new adversaries to boot! The jelly horror sloshed forward as the party attacked it with swords and spells, and it soon dissipated in a gooey mess on the floor, while the gargoyles were slain one by one. As the cube died, it left the expired wizard lying motionless and covered in slime. Concorde managed to bring her back from the brink of death at the great disapproval of his deity, Choranus, who apparently thought it was her time. Further, all could see she seemed visibly diminished from the whole experience, some lifeforce never returning.

Grit carried Souka Yant now for a while, and the rest of the party went on to learn the secret door pushed up into the ceiling. The stench from beyond was of death, surprisingly strongly smelled over the ambient odor of dung and rot they’d almost grown accustomed to. Someone thought they heard a muffled snicker from ahead, and so creeping into a cavernous chamber, they were engaged in combat by another animated dead humanoid, which seemed to be the source of the smell. The smell in fact was so strong, all approaching had to cover their mouths or would occasionally tear up, making the fight against the undead more challenging. Whatever it was, it was clearly mad, as it congratulated the party for finding it, then laughed and cajoled the party as it died (again).

At least it had a chest that they knew contained gold, as the dwarves’ keen abilities had detected a faint amount down this way. Opening it turned out to be a simple matter, and it appeared to have 20 copper and 60 gold coins within! Something didn’t add up though. The dwarves would have known if it was so much gold, and only a trace was smelled, and indeed a close inspection showed the “gold” to be painted lead. The shrewd dungeoneers noted the chest detected magic as well, though, and no magic items appeared in the compartment. Some experimentation revealed the lid contained a small panel that could slide away to reveal the storage of 3 rolled-up scrolls writ on long strips of bone. What a find!

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27 Highsun 945 (1)
The next morning, underground, one level below the Lair of the Dung Monster

It was a dark and stormy night.

No. They were underground still. Their resources were dwindling, and their gods were angry at the constant interruptions this morning. Not even noon yet as best they could guess, and already they were looking for a place to hole up after the chance encounter with a pack of ghoulish undead.

On the upside, after spiking themselves into a room, and even “un-picking” the lock to ensure it stayed shut, they had a little time to detect for magic, and as luck would have it there was a bit. In a smashed chest, in a padded slot not obvious to casual inspection, was a 4-slotted potion bottle. Grit took a swig right away, just had to see what happened.

Thankfully he neither died nor turned into a monster. He just felt “oogly” inside for a moment. A diseased party member tried it too, since who knows, but it didn’t help The Rot that was starting. So they stashed the other two does for sometime when Grit was really thirsty.

In the morning they had a pair of black skeletons waiting for them outside the door! Their fear-scream sent half the party running into the corners of the room. However those remaining thought quickly and banished one while fighting the other. The banished one went off into the darkness, and after ending the other, the party strode off in the other direction.

Down the next corridor they came across a door of ebony bound in gold just beyond a strangely cold secret door. The ebony door radiated evil beyond and had an unusually complex-looking internal lock, so the party messed around with the secret door. Inside was a hovering silver sphere, which seemed to be creating an intense cold in the room. Baba Zeez ran in to see if there was anything of obvious value within, and it nearly cost him some skin it was so cold. Well, they’d found a meat locker if they needed one…

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27 Highsun 945 (2)
Second day underground, one level below the Lair of the Dung Monster

First, the party stumbled in upon a troop of ogres doing some sort of monotonous coin-sorting. Knowing them for the evil fuckers they are, the party launched in against the ogres. Spells dropped and ogres fell under the spell of Souca Yant, but still one of them got away, running into a dark cavern with dirt ceiling a-crumbling.

Second, the adventurers found the largest piles of coin they’d ever laid eyes upon, and some of it was out of view! Trouble was there were at least a score of foul-smelling undead guarding it. The fight started alright, but the party’s numbers were pretty quickly overwhelmed by the unending onslaught of walking dead reeking of an open grave.

The glint of gold and gems within torchlight, they combated the ghouls, but in the end it was impossible. Baba Zeez even came to a sad demise, sacrificing himself so that his allies could flee this certain death. If he was ever to be seen again, frighteningly, it would probably be as one of these same undead.

Thinking Baba’s death was sign to hightail it out of Rappan Athuk, the band headed back toward the central room with the stair that went up into the dung-heap-smelling first floor. They hoped not to run into the shit-monster, but before they could worry about that they remembered the black skeletons were still locked into the entry room!

The fight was on once again, and one after another black skeleton strode into the lantern light. Things looked dire, and there was no better known way out…

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Delve 12
Sessions 27 to 32

Session 27
7 XP
Loot
2 potions (3C05)
6 books (3C05), 1 is magical and locked, the rest will sell for 46 GP
2 red scrolls (cure disease)

Session 28
1 XP
Loot
zip

Session 29
3 XP
Loot
4 GP
30 SP
90 CP
2 agates (5 GP ea)

Session 30
3 XP
Loot
1 amethyst (20 GP)
122 SP
900 CP

Session 31
9 XP
Loot
16x green gargoyle eyes of jet (400 GP)

Session 32
3 XP
Loot
eyes of jet transformed back into gargoyles (-415 GP)

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Delve 13
Session 32

Session 32
3 XP
Loot
-30 GP (paid to troll marauders)
-5 × 19 = 95 days’ rations (clerically transformed dirt and gong turned out to be inedible (“pass the lembas bread!”))
-5 GP (Dodd’s torchbearer)

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