A Tenday later they again head up into the hills. An earth tremor is followed by an ankheg attack, swiftly dispatched.
Dagny AccountRed Larch was beginning to feel more and more like home, if home were a place where not everyone washed enough and also drank too much ale on a regular basis. But perhaps that was just what living in an Inn was like. And everyone was too tall. Dagny had an itch to kick someone in the shins. It was definitely time to head out again before she did.
Rhennya wanted to investigate the caravan, but Kaylessa Irkell, the Innkeeper, had an offer the group couldn’t refuse. Free room and board for a tenday if they investigated Lance Rock for “evil” which could mean any number of things, if you thought about it. They all set out, taking with them enough supplies to protect them in case of inclement weather – these days, no one knew if it would be snow, sun, hail, or torrential rain.
The area surrounding the stone was dotted with limestone, but the rock itself was granite. That was strange in and of itself, but there was nothing else inherently wrong about the rock. No blood. No entrails. No strange writing. A few gouges at the top, but nothing overtly suspicious. But the trail nearby was marked with a neatly lettered sign: “Come thee no closer lest ye catch the disfiguring plague that infects me, Lord of Lance Rock.”
“Heh,” said Ralph. “Sounds like a challenge to me.” He strode off. The trail led to a natural cave. More limestone, Dagny noted. A cold breeze that came from inside carried with it the stench of decay and death. A body wearing only bloody breeches lay not far inside.
They all looked at each other.
“This must be it,” said Alani.
Kasumi grinned and led the way. She poked the body with her katana, perhaps to shove it out of the way, but it reached up and grabbed her sword. She managed to shake it off and the Zombie moaned itself to its feet to face them. Between them they managed to subdue it in a reasonable amount of time.
“Let’s go!” said Sharatu.
“Wait for just a minute,” said Dagny. She’d never used Detect Good & Evil in the wild before but now seemed like a good time. “I’m going to see if I can sense anything from the cave.” The others stood back as she held up her holy symbol and muttered the words. It felt a little embarrassing doing it in front of the others, but it’s what she was here for. She felt the pop as the spell took hold.
“Oh!” she said, and then dropped her voice to a whisper. “Two just ahead at the entrance and something else in the room ahead. Maybe something to the left as well.” The stench of it filled her nose and she swallowed. She should have packed a handkerchief of rose water.
“No help for it,” said Ralph and rushed forward faster than it looked like he should be able to. His speed must have surprised what lay ahead of them as well as two boulders crashed down, missing him completely. The rocks were followed by two zombies in slightly better repair than the last they had dispatched.
Chunks of putrid flesh littered the floor by the time they had finally taken the zombies down. For awhile, it had seemed that no matter how many times they hit them, they just kept going.
The room beyond contained a large stalagmite that had been lopped off into some kind of demented altar of necromantic energy. It dripped with layers of blood, some of it relatively fresh, other stains a deep, wine red that could have been ages old. Dagny took out a vial of holy water and poured some over the foul thing while muttering a prayer in case whatever else lurked in the cave had good ears. The top of the altar foamed and bubbled a moment and then subsided. The sense of evil that had permeated the room abated, making it clear that the next pocket of nastiness lay down the tunnel.
The tunnel opened up into a large alcove. Motionless bodies lined the walls like people-sized dolls. Motionless at first, at least. As Seraphus entered, three stumbled away from the walls and attacked, their ungainly movements awkward but deadly. After a brief battle, the unfortunate souls were put to rest. Dagny said another prayer under her breath. This was an unholy place. After some discussion, Kasumi, Seraphus, Ralph, and Alani chopped the heads off the rest of the bodies, just in case. No one had any desire for an unexpected surprise later and there was no time to burn them.
Down another tunnel and they came upon a surreal scene: three zombies in a star-shaped cavern, looking as if they were dressed for a costume party in hell. One was a bear, another a jester, and the third a dame. Rhennya transformed herself into a bear and faced off snout to snout with the one. It took some time, but they managed to subdue the three without too much pain. The smell of death was everywhere now.
Beyond that peculiar chamber was another containing two iron chests. “Treasure!” said Sharatu and Seraphus, nearly in unison. Dragons and their gold. The stories were true.
Seraphus and Ralph went forward, the dragonborn levering open one chest with his glimmering sword. They had just seen that it was empty when a disembodied voice rang out. “You Dare!” it said and then came the unmistakeable sound of a lever being pulled. More boulders fell from above, missing Ralph but hitting Seraphus. He said something in dragon. Dagny guessed it was a curse or something worse.
The Detect Evil spell had worn off but it was obvious there was more trouble to come. They entered a large chamber, this one liberally decorated with torches. Three tables held an equal number of bodies. Baskets at the foot of each bed contained a sickly stew of body parts and things you didn’t want to look at. A hooded figure faced away from them, near the beds. Silent, which made it seem even more sinister. An exit at the other end of the chamber was blocked by four skeletons armed with bows.
They killed one of the skeletons fairly quickly, though not before Alani was nearly taken out, but then the Necromancer appeared, proclaiming himself the Lord of Lance Rock. Contrary to what the sign had said, he was a handsome man, if you liked the tall, pale type all dressed in black and attitude. Kasumi obviously did and bowed down to him when he offered a truce of sorts for those who did so. Dagny sneered and held up her holy symbol. She would not bow down to such a foul creature.
Dead hands, five of them, spilled out from the baskets and attacked. One grabbed onto Rhennya’s thigh, it’s blackened nails biting into the druid’s skin. But the worst was yet to come as the Necromancer cast some type of spell of domination over Ralph. An illusory crown fitted itself about the barbarian’s head. Kasumi, her momentary attraction dispelled, tried to tear it off, but it held. She was finally able to stun him before he could do anything too horrible.
They were all feeling the effects of the battle by this point, but so was the Necromancer. He ducked away down the tunnel, looking worried. They were finally able to subdue the hands, as Sharatu used Burning Hands on them, looking pleased with the symmetry of the spell. They healed themselves as well as they could and followed after the Necromancer. Would they be able to withstand him?
They found a seemingly empty room decorated with expensive purple curtains. In the centre was a pedestal and above that hung a globe. Most concerning, however, was the symbols that decorated the room. The symbol of the Elemental Eye. Before they could investigate further, the Necromancer appeared from behind the curtains, laughing at their temerity of bracing him in his den.
His laughter soon died as their attacks finally began to wear him down. Even though he expended all the charge from a wand of magic missiles at once at poor Seraphus, they finally brought him to the floor. As he died, the aura of evil around the place immediately began to fade away, but Dagny knew it would be awhile before the stench of death completely left the place.