Week Five – I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes

A few hours pass and you come to a place where the tunnel widens. On the east, several branching tunnels lead off from the main chamber. The tunnel you’ve been following, White Ennox Tunnel according to the map, leads off to the left, almost due North.

You’re getting close to where the map shows another split when you hear the sound of distant shouts and the ring of metal on metal that is the familiar signature of combat. As you hurry and arrive at the split, you find a battle engaged between a dwindling troop of Dwarves and a small horde of burly humanoids with a hide of overlapping plates and thick, claw-like hands encased in metal gauntlets.

The Dwarves are putting up a spirited fight, but they are poorly armed with picks, shovels and walking sticks. Dwarves are nearly born with mining tools in their hand, and they are quite proficient in their use, including how to fight with them, but there is a reason that warriors don’t fight with shovels and put long handles on a pick before calling it a weapon. The Dwarves aren’t faring well and several already lie upon the ground, unconscious or dead.

Without hesitation, Zef enlarges Grimnar, who charges along with Damit, Domi and Ban. Most blows land, but only Damit’s is sufficient to take down his opponent. The dwarves are fighting hard, but few of them seem to be able to penetrate the thick, fibrous armor of their adversaries. Seles detects that one of the fallen dwarves still lives and he brings him back to consciousness, though barely.

“Oy lads,” a stout dwarf with a salt-and-pepper beard and a long club shouts out over the din of the fight, “you lot thump ’em in the back and we’ll commence to thumpin’ ’em in the front! We can meet somewheres in the middle!”

Zef takes up his gun but misses cleanly. Domi nearly drops his weapon, trying to pull a fancy move. Grimnar and Damit both manage to finish an enemy, but not before another dwarf falls. Seles blesses both the party and the Dwarven allies with the grace of Thane.

Finally, one of the Dwarves manages to slay his opponent with a shout of “Die digger!”. Damit and Domi finish off another two and Zef continues to fill the air with smoking bolts of energy that don’t hit anything.

With only six diggers remaining, the over-sized Grimnar and the Dwarven captain both taking one out and Zef doing untold damage to unseen masonry.

In spite of the dwindling numbers, the diggers do not retreat. The last four are made short work of however. Because of Seles’ continuous channeling, everyone who isn’t dead, which equals four dwarves, is in good shape.

The armored creatures defeated, the Dwarves who aren’t injured begin looking after those who are. “Very well met,” the older Dwarf says to you while examining a nasty head-wound on one of his fallen comrades, “would any of you lads know aught about patching this sort of thing up? We be fresh out of hospitals out here in the nethers.”

Seles takes a look at the fallen Dwarf and shakes his head, sadly. “He is gone to Thane’s embrace. He knows peace now, as does the other. Grieve not for them for they are in a better place.”

The seasoned Dwarf gives Seles a mildly sardonic look, but doesn’t argue.

“My name’s Egor an’ this here’s Iben and Miles. The dead fellers are Amin and Ruber, and the one you saved is Beetle. The rest are Dugan, Bale, Billet, Herm, Nylum and Gorrum. We’re in your debt lads. We’d not have prevailed without you.”

You reassure them that it was the least you could do and you begin to tell them about the danger to Gammeldine and the happenings in Arbordan.

“Ach lad, we know about what’s amiss. We had a dandy view of the light show. Arbordan’s lost, but Gammeldine is closed tight as a keg an’ that demon-spawn Gree isn’t about to come marching in unless we let ‘im.” He waves around at the dead diggers. “This lot is his as well. Always probing for a weakness. Testing us, pushing. If you hadn’t happened by, I’m afraid they’ve have found one.”

You ask about Gree, and Egor describes a tall man with a fancy costume. He doesn’t sound terribly frightening to you, but you can see by the reactions of the other Dwarves that his name invokes fear.

Eagerly, Grimnar describes the map of the mines that you’ve discovered and the fact that you have been to the lost mines. That gets an immediate and excited reaction from all of the Dwarves.

“Och, bygods, Stoneheart’s mines you say? Never dreamt I’d see the day that someone found a way back to it. And right here you say? I always thought it would be close. We don’t come out this way much since the swamp flooded the Bandurin tunnel, but those collapsed tunnels always made me wonder. “

“Well we’ve got no time to lose! I’m going to take my boys back to Gammeldine and come back with wagons and carts to bring the great library back to the city, hopin’ anything’s left of it. If you lads plan to go back and clean it out, I gotta tell you that the legends tell of a great and terrible evil that’s holed up there. There ain’t many Dwarves in Gammeldine better with a pick or a club than this lot, but hopefully a bunch of heroes like you can get the job done! We’ll be back in a few days I’m guessin’. “

You can feel the day waning in the tiredness of you flesh, but you march back to the area of the secret door to the mines anyway. There you are greeted by the Xill, AmuAn. She is very pleased that you’ve returned so quickly and is delighted to share your bland dinner.

After a utilitarian breakfast, you return to the room of the Sphinx, Met’anRa. He feigns boredom at your return and briefly gives you a hard time, but you can tell he’s glad to see you back. “Let me provide you with a charm that will ward off fire. It only lasts for an hour, but if you come back tomorrow, I will cast it again.”

With that, Met’anra waves his paw-hand before each of your faces. You feel a sensation of coolness settle over you.

AmuAn indicates that you should take stair down, to the left.

Grimnar, who is doesn’t much trust the Xill, asks why you should go that way instead of the other.

AmuAn fails to take offense. She nods her head. “This way fastest to the bad place where black weapons are to replace dese,” she indicates the weapons at her belt, “our bargain I take you dere  and den I leave after bad ones killed. Your bargain wit’ the great Met’anRa to clean de place not my bargain yah?”

Grimnar scowls at her for a minute, but doesn’t protest when she begins to lead you down the stairs. The passage is broad and straight and eventually leads to an intersection with a narrow tunnel to the left, and and broad one to the northeast. You guide indicates the later branch, and you soon comes to a spot where the tunnel turns to the east.

The black iron doors to this room are in good repair, and make a bit of a groan as Domi and Grimnar push them open.

You enter a large forge, unlit but for the intense glow of one of the more distant furnaces. A curious figure hunches over an anvil, it’s back to you. After a few last strikes to the anvil, it straightens and then turns to you, its wicked spear glowing in the semi-dark.

A vicious lizard-like face grins at your with malicious glee. “Ssssurface food comesss to me,” it hisses, advancing at you with its fiery weapon and a stink of sulfur. As it passes a barrel propped up by a block of stone, it’s thick tail wraps around and snatches out the stone, dumping many gallons of liquid on the floor through the entire room. You detect the sharp smell of lamp oil as it spatters you and washes around your boots.

Zef weakens the creature, a Salamander by it’s appearance, with a black bolt of energy. The spell hardly slows the powerful creature, however. The Salamander strikes Damit with his spear and then hammers him with its tail and gives him a painful squeeze. The fighter is barely able to stand and stumbles away as best he can. A spark drops from the spear and the lamp oil around your feet ignites. Whatever the Sphinx cast upon you, it is sufficient to keep you being harmed by the fire.

The Paladin is undeterred and calls upon the wrath of Ainna to empower him. A flash of light bursts as the hobbit’s diminutive longsword scores the Salamander’s hide deeply. A look of doubt flashes across its bestial face.

As Seles does what he can to get Damit back in the fight, Zef uses his new want to make Grimnar’s weapon magical after correctly deducing that the Salamander is likely difficult to harm with non-magical weapons. Meanwhile, Domi is attempting to extract the chain of his weapon from where it is stuck upon his armor. Damit lands a blow, but in spite of his great strength, it barely scratches the Salamander. Grimnar however, his flail recently enchanted, delivers a powerful blow after moving to flank.

Seles blesses the party, and Zef goes on to enchant Damit’s longsword as well. Both Ban and Damit manage to land telling blows on the Salamander, who now is acting someone looking for an escape route. He has been unable to score more than a glancing blow since the first exchange with Damit.

Zef enchants Domi’s weapon, but before the rogue can make use of it, Grimnar slays the Salamander.

Zef does a quick scan for magic items as you make your way out of the burning room and finds that the forge hammer used by the Salamander glows brightly. He scoops it up and carries it to the next room.

This room is about 25 feet square, with stairs up on the right, stairs down on the left, and another wide doorway opposite the one you came in through. In each corner are several barrels.  An uneasy feeling haunts you as you walk through the room.

Grimnar cracks one of the barrels and finds the moldering, unidentifiable remains of something. Ban scans around for evil and finds the whole rooms seems to be filled with it. Nothing seems amiss however, other than the presence.

As you move to the next room, two iron-bound doors of oak stand before you, iron pull rings on each, meant to pull the doors toward you. The room beyond the doors is sizable, but choked with great sheets of web from the floor to the ceiling, with only a narrow lane available to traverse the room, around a corner to the right to another double-door.

In the far right corner, a tunnel of sorts leads deep into the webbing. It is, perhaps, three feet across. With no argument, Ban fishes out a torch from his pack and lights it, then hands it to Grim who ventures just enough into the room to start the web afire.

The webs start burning slowly, but soon the heat is intense, though it doesn’t discomfort you. A constant sizzling and popping noise comes through the roar of the flames, and occasionally you hear a terrible, high-pitched scream from within the room. After a few minutes, the flames die out and the smoke rolls out of the room into the barrel room and then out the other side. As you enter the room, you see several of the cabinets burning on the top, though none badly yet. A few blackened corpses of dog-sized spiders lay upon the floor, legs pointed upward. At the back of the room, unseen while the webs were in place, is a broad stairway leading down.

As soon as everyone is in the room, two massive spiders charge up the stairs from across the room and attack!

One of the two tries to bite Damit, but the fighter dodges. The other goes after Ban and bites him. The hobbit steps back and tries to shoulder his gun and shoot it, but he misjudges the spider’s reach and is bitten again. The Paladin falls, his face pale as the spider’s poison begins to do it’s work.

Damit and Domi move in and begin hacking at the same spider. Zef comes up behind Grimnar and enlarges the Dwarf to twice his size. Seles channels healing energy, enough to make Ban conscious again so that he can tend to himself.

Damit and Grimnar are both bitten by the spiders, but don’t seem affected by the poison. The monsters are very quick despite their enormous size, and hard to hit. Finally, Zef blasts the injured one with a searing ray and it falls.

The remaining spider is still deadly, but you fight hard and smart and it doesn’t last for more than a few seconds after its partner dies. Soon, it too lies upon its back, it’s massive legs twitching until Ban finishes it.

The floor is littered with bones and debris. A careful search finds several humanoid bodies, possibly human. Each of these possesses a cold iron weapon. One has a great-sword. Another has a longsword and another, a battleaxe. The last has a short-sword. The most interesting find, however, is a ivory rod, about two feet long and covered with interesting runes.

Together, you retreat back to the Sphinx room to rest and refresh. Met’anRa is satisfied to see that you lived. Zef begins tinkering with the hammer and rod to determine their properties. Soon, he reveals that the hammer, in the hands of a skilled smith, can put a temporary but keen edge upon a weapon that will make it more effective in combat.

The rod is able to modify spells so that they last twice as long, as long as the spells aren’t too difficult.

Happy with your day’s work, you settle in for a rest under the protective eye of Met’anRa.

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