Passing between the grim guardians of chaos, Grebdal Themp leads his companions cautiously down the cramped and narrow tunnel. Old bones lie quietly mouldering in alcoves on either side of them, blanketed with cobwebs and the dust of ages. "These catacombs haven't been in use for many generations," observes Fhenteskeer, "not since the wood importers ad urn-merchants made cremation fashionable. So it goes in purse-emptying Ângu!"
"If all the mourners too are long-since departed, that means no one we meet down here will be up to any good!" says Orhhuta.
"Which is why you should all stop talking, lest they hear you," growls Grebdal Themp.
The passage leads into a tholos-shaped chamber, empty save for a life-sized marble statue of the three Graces in the centre [Room 3 - Feature: unusual statue]. Another narrow passageway leads out from the room.
[Q: Anything obvious about the statue? 50/50 (4+): O2 C5 - No]
"This shouldn't be here," says Ksandajja.
"Let's just leave it alone and pass by," says Fhenteskeer.
As the companions all sidle along the curving wall of the chamber, alert for any dangers...
1. is a normal statue
2. holds a clue
3. animates (combat)
4. animates (magic effect & combat)
5. animates (talks)
6. hides a secret]
...the three Charites begin to slowly move, untwining from one another. Their movements become a slow and sinuous dance. The onlookers stop, staring in rapt attention at the enchanting spectacle.
[They must each Test their LUCK or become paralysed: only Orhhuta fails her roll]
Then before their very eyes the statues begin to change and contort, long claws extending from dainty fingers, sweet lips parting to reveal mouths full of needle-sharp fangs. Having revealed their true forms, the ACHARITES rush at their prey with talons extended, toothy maws open wide in silent howls. Orhhuta is still fascinated by the magical dance, and stands dreamy-eyed and unknowing as her friends raise their arms to meet these awful foes.
ACHARIS SKILL 7 STAMINA 6
Medium Armour, Small Claws
Ksandajja is upon the her opponent before she's crossed half the distance from the centre of the chamber. The sorceress' sword strikes true but only glances off her milky-white marble shoulder [2 damage, -2 for armour: no effect]. Grebdal Themp fares better; he brings his sword down upon the beautiful-tressed head of his foe, and cracks her face nearly in twain [4 damage leaves her with 2 Stamina]. But Fhenteskeer raises his axe vainly as the creature is upon him and raking with terrible claws; he receives a long, bloody gash across the next from the darting-eyed monstrosity [3 damage puts him at 7 Stamina].
Ksandajja strikes again; this time her aim is sure, and her blade chips off a goodly portion of the fair-cheeked monster's hip [3-1(Armour)=2 damage, dropping her to 4 Stamina]. Grebdal Themp's opponent is still reeling from the shock of his blade. She leaves herself open with a clumsy feint [fumble: expose weak spot to attack, no armour roll] and his sword smashes right into the crack it had already made and down, eradicating the eyes with their limb-loosening glance. The acharis falls at his feet, shattering into bits of jagged stone [2 damage destroys it]. Stepping on light feet, the third acharis forces Fhenteskeer back with her terrible assault. Even as he retreats, she tears a shred out of his leather jerkin -- and his skin beneath [3-1=2 damage, leaving him with 5 Stamina].
Try as she might, the sweet-singing fiend cannot approach the sorceress but that a shining blade cracks lightning-swift across her white marble skin [3-0=3 damage, dropping her to 1 Stamina]. Grebdal Themp rushes to aid the beleaguered fire priest. He cannot connect with the fleet-footed acharis, but he distracts her enough that Fhenteskeer can make a credible attack, smashing his axe down hard against the sternum of that horror whom joys delight [3-0=3 damage, putting her at 3 Stamina].
Ksandajja, never faltering, presses her attack. In a hail of strokes, the slim-waisted abomination falls before the sorceress' might, and shatters to rubble against the cold stone ground [3-2=1 damage, destroyed]. Despite the dual effort of rogue and priest, the tender acharis once again slashes her claws down Fhenteskeer's jerkin, and again bloodies him through it [2-1=1 damage drops him to 5 Stamina; G missed].
Now three stalwart fighters surround the last acharis. Without her sisters, she is no match for them, and Fhenteskeer's axe soon ends the Orchomenian devil.
The moment the final acharis crumbles to pieces, Orhhuta suddenly snaps back to her senses. "I just had the loveliest dream," she says, yawning. "but it seems I missed all the fun." Fhenteskeer mumbles something impolite as he binds his wounds [except really I forgot the first aid rule again]. The he rummages through his pack for some PROVISIONS to restore his flagging vigour. The sorceress is also feeling a bit peckish, and he gives her a bite to eat as well [both regain 2 STAMINA]. Orhhuta stands guard as Grebdal Themp slinks off down the passageway to scout ahead [he makes a successful Sneaking roll].
He hears a commotion before him, and douses his lantern, creeping forward to see what is going on. In a low-ceilinged, dusty chamber[Room 4 - encounter], he sees a group of squat, hairless, hobgoblin-faced SKORN locked in combat with a band of CULTISTS. He elects to leave them to it, and hastens back to tell his companions.
[encounter 1d6+1=3 Skorn
Q: What are the Skorn doing (via Age of Fable)? Fighting with creatures of different species
Rolling 3d6 again on the encounter table came up with Skorn again, so rather than re-rolling I decided that meant 1d6=4 Cultists.
Battle Results (1d6)
1-3 cultists win
4-5 skorn win
d6=3,5; each cultist loses 1d6-2 Stamina]
Grebdal Themp bids Fhenteskeer to cover the light of his lantern so that there is just enough to see by, and leads his companions down the corridor. They wait until the din of battle subsides, then rush forth into the scene of carnage. Three skorn lie dead in the dust, but the four cultists leering victoriously over them are all bloodied and battered themselves.
CULTIST #1 SKILL 6 STAMINA 3
CULTIST #2 SKILL 6 STAMINA 5
CULTIST #3 SKILL 6 STAMINA 2
CULTIST #4 SKILL 6 STAMINA 4
Lusting for more violence, they raise their arms and fly at the newcomers, but these fanatics are no match for seasoned warriors, and they all soon join the skorn in ignominious death. Only Grebdal Themp sustained any injuries in the battle, and that due to his own over-confidence.
[This may be Fighting Fantasy, but posting two dungeon crawls in close proximity has given me writing-about-combat fatigue. I'm going to try truncating or summarising the fights that aren't terribly interesting. Grebdal Themp's opponent rolled a Fumble (off-balance, -2 to physical actions next turn) then managed to score the only hit against the party on the subsequent round despite the penalty, but that alone wasn't worth writing out the whole combat.
Needless to say, I also forgot to have someone use First Aid again. But I did remember to ask the oracle:
Q: Do the cultists have treasure? unlikely O3 C4 - No, but... 2d6 SP each.]
To cope with the pain of his wound (or rather the embarrassment of receiving it), Grebdal Themp busies himself with rifling through the cultists' purses. He amasses the somewhat less than princely sum of 29 silver coins. No one minds when he puts them in his own purse.
[Since I made the map in advance, movement is random into unexplored areas. 1d2=]
Two exits lead from this room; Grebdal Themp sneaks down the passage that curves to the south. Soon he comes to an arch-roofed colonnade[Room 5 - magic trap]. Where once was dirty rock and dusty floor, now he finds only polished, carved stone and clean-swept flagstones. The colonnade seems to stretch almost endlessly before him, and the whole begins to be suffused with a pale green light, though Grebdal Themp cannot discern its source.
[He must Test his LUCK (currently 10) to escape the trap: 2d6=2!]
He stops to look round, then realises suddenly his feet have not ceased their forward stride. With a great effort of will he turns about, and flies back into the relative safety of the bone-lined catacombs.
Bent nearly double trying to catch his breath, he manages to rasp out, "that way is cursed!" Seeing the panic in his eyes, his comrades elect not to question the assessment. Once he has recovered, he wordlessly leads them down the other passage. They pass by an even narrower side-passage, and continue forward until they arrive at the next chamber [Room 6 - encounter].
The stench of decay is stronger here. Part of the ceiling at the back of the rectangular chamber has fallen in, leaving a mass of stone, dirt, and the tangles of roots from some garden above. Half-buried forms begin to stir in the rubble, as six humanoid corpses in various states of decay step forth from their dank hidey-holes. They pick up a variety of old swords, and then these hideous ZOMBIES shamble menacingly towards the living.
ZOMBIE SKILL6 STAMINA 6
"They're slow," says Grebdal Themp. "We can easily outrun them."
"No!" shouts Fhenteskeer. "I am sworn to destroy such unnatural fiends!" He raises his axe towards the heavens, and utters a prayer to Filash in his capacity as Kindler of Funeral Pyres [casts Smite Undead, which lets him make 2 damage rolls per hit].
Both Fhenteskeer and Ksandajja are beset by two of the plodding horrors, leaving one each for their companions. Fhenteskeer is seized by a holy fury and leaps into the fray. His axe splits the first zombie neatly in twain with a single stroke. The halves fall, smouldering from the Fire God's hatred of the unnatural creature [hits for 3+3=6 damage, destroyed]. The second zombies sword is smashed aside as an afterthought [missed].
Ksandajja clashes swords with the first thing to face her, and parries every thrust of its pitted blade [combat totals equal, no hits]. But the second slips in under the distracted sorceress' guard, and slashes its scimitar across her flank [3 damage puts her at 5 Stamina]. Grebdal Themp does no better, and is nearly disembowelled by the sweep of a rusting cutlass [4 damage leave him with 4 Stamina]. With the pommel of her sword, mighty Orhhuta smashes flat the ribcage of the zombie faces her, but not even her powerfully muscled arm can compare with the Fire God's wrath, and the beast does not fall [3 damage dropped it to 3 Stamina].
Urged on by his sacred task, Fhenteskeer slams through into his remaining opponent. His axe removes its arm at the shoulder, and ruins much of its decomposing torso. It yet clings to unlife, though by the barest margin [3+2 damage, 1 Stamina left].
Ksandajja fights with more caution, and manages to fend off one attacker whilst delivering a punishing blow to the one who caused her injury [3 damage reduces it to 3 Stamina]. Grebdal Themp grits his teeth and springs at his assailant, offering up a silent prayer to Telak, Lord of Battle. Be it Telak who guides his hand or the lucky blessing of Sindla, none can say, but his flashing blade sends his enemy's fleshless head sailing off into the gloom [natural 12, Critical; 3x2=6 damage, destroyed]. Orhhuta fights with calm and purpose, and the mangled limbs of the zombie soon lie at her feet [3 damage destroys it].
The battle is all but won. Fhenteskeer leaves another smoking corpse in a heap, and Ksandajja carves her attacker to pieces. The final zombie is caught between the blades of cunning Grebdal Themp and indomitable Orhhuta, and it falls in two twitching halves onto the grimy floor.
The air in the zombies' chamber is particularly noxious, so no one tarries after the battle. They rush back down the corridor to the side passage before stopping to catch their breath, wipe the filth from their arms, and bind their wounds [except I forgot this last part again...]. The side passage is excessively narrow in the beginning, and broken old bones litter the ground, though it is also evident that the way is a well-travelled. It soon leads to an intersection, though neither branch appears more or less travelled than the other, so Grebdal Themp leads them to the right on a whim. He has cause to regret it ere long, as it opens out into a rough-hewn circular chamber [Room 7 - encounter], where a scene of the most gruesome awfulness greets the hardy band.
[Encounter: 1d6=2 cultists
Q: What are they doing? (AoF) Washing]
A simple slab of weathered granite with a convex top sits near the centre of the chamber. A human sacrifice is affixed to the rude altar, held in place by a copper band about the neck. His stomach has been opened from groin to sternum, his mouth gapes in a silent scream, and his dead eyes stare, frozen in their last moments of terror. A pair of CULTISTS stand beside, their robes cast to the ground, anointing each other with the blood of the victim.
The cultists do not notice the armed strangers until they are nearly upon them, and then it is too late. In an instant their blood is mingled with that of their victim, as their souls fall shrieking into the Pit to join their demonic Lord.
[PCs had surprise: +6 attack, +2 damage rolls; the fight lasted a single round]
There is but one way on from here, and they are all eager to take it, but they wait just long enough that Fhenteskeer can say an orison over the poor victim on the altar.
The passage leading out shews more signs of recent passage. It leads to another intersection [area 8 - other feature + magical trap] where one of the few walls not harbouring the bones of the deceased has been decorated with a black-and-white mosaic of the wicked god, Decay. Waves of the blackest sort of magic emanate from the mosaic as its aura of terror seizes the hearts of the interlopers in Decay's unholy house...
[The PCs must all Test their LUCK to avoid the effects. All succeed!]
...but after the nauseating spectacle they have just witnesses, not even the very countenance of the Prince of Carrion can move them to flight. Each passes by the mosaic wordlessly as they continue through the catacombs.
next post: deeper into the vile cult's lair!