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Oppressive Wait

Theona’s Journal

Flamerule 1, 1373, Ancient Dwarven Stronghold of Barannsar

We ended up letting our N-Tel-Quess companions rest a full 24 hours, as they looked like they really needed it. Even Tassar only got up from resting long enough to eat (about six times by my count). Since Areon was up, I decided not to do much riffling through our friends’ packs. I am surprised by my reaction to being underground in this dwarven fortress— natural caves have never bothered me, and even mines and sewers don’t feel as oppressive as the weighty architecture of these mortal-made catacombs. If it weren’t for Areon, I would claw my way out of this subterranean vault just to see the sun and open sky.

Finally, our comrades were up and about, and we decided to explore a passage near the dwarven shrine. These halls are loaded with traps, but thankfully, at least some have been sprung prior to our arrival. This corridor had a gaping hole in the ceiling at one end, and we found a large stone cylinder resting against the wall 80’ further along, with what looked like bone fragments and bits of rusty armor flattened around it. As we stood and admired the handiwork, I saw some movement in the distance. Two large beetle-shaped creatures with outstretched antennae were scuttling towards us— rust monsters! Those of us with bows began to shoot them, and I managed to kill one with a well-placed bolt, yelling, “One!” for Tassar’s benefit. They were quick though and I could see that William’s chain shirt and steel shield were already falling in a rusty pile at his feet. That was enough to send Rosorc retreating behind the rest of us, but thankfully William finished off the second creature before it had a chance to sample the dwarf’s selection of metal gear.

We began to head the direction the rust monsters had appeared from, and after walking a few feet, I noticed the outline of a door hidden in the wall. I was still checking it over when Areon pushed the panel open and headed through. He appears calm, though I suspect he must hate being under all this stonework as much as I do. I quickly followed him down the narrow secret passage to a rather nondescript room with one other exit. Suddenly, the floor began to move. I confess; I lost all composure as the floor coalesced into a creature of stone and began to attack us. Within seconds, the large earth elemental knocked Tassar down. My bolts merely bounced off of it, and Areon’s bowstring snapped as he tried to load his bow and keep me out of the creature’s reach at the same time. As Deitricha pulled the unconscious form of Tassar out of harm’s way, Rosorc ran forward to attack while William shot damaging spells at it with amazing accuracy. I know I just continued to scream, horrified at the lack of effect our weapons had on the hulking monstrosity. Areon must have sensed just how badly off I was; he grabbed me with one arm and deposited me in the relative safety of the hallway, where Deitricha was restoring Tassar to health. He then pulled out his greatsword and ran towards the massive elemental. I was sure he would die; I could feel the blind panic dumping adrenaline into my blood, along with an unshakable feeling of dread.

Watching another one of William’s spells hit the creature and actually knock some pebbles loose from it, I remembered the wand I was carrying. I had no idea if it would work, but it was the only thing I could think to try. I aimed the wand and used the same hand motions I’d used to activate the wand the day before. A sickly green light shot out from it, briefly outlining the creature, which somehow, incredibly, looked weaker. Tassar’s warfork didn’t touch it, though he was not close enough for an accurate throw. Areon however, buried his sword into the creature, and it was obvious that it caused it severe damage. I was fearful that it would retaliate against Areon, but it instead lashed out at Rosorc, hitting him so hard that I thought him mortally wounded as he crumbled into a heap and lay still. I hit the beast with another ray from the wand— it was now disintegrating before our eyes. With one more mighty swing, Areon brought the creature down in a hail of rock and debris— it did not rise again.

I finally stopped screaming at this point. A bit embarrassed by my outburst, I decided to carefully examine the walls of the room for anything out of the ordinary while Deitricha tended to everyone else’s wounds. I got as far as the unexplored doorway when I found a pressure plate right over its threshold. Marking it with chalk, I intended to continue searching beyond the room when my friends were ready to travel on again. I should have known better, as soon I heard the distinct sound of a trap door opening and “Weeee!” from a halfling voice in the hall beyond the plate.

Running over to check, we saw that Tassar had found a false doorway a few feet past the trap I’d marked, and, pulling the doorknob had (obviously) sprung the trap, revealing a 10’ long opening in the floor, complete with a chute. Deitricha was now panicking, as we could hear him very far below us, arguing with someone. The trap door swung shut. I found the mechanism to open the trap and forced it to stay open, then Areon and I tied a rope around my waist, since I was the lightest, while Deitricha began to lower 50’ of rope into the opening. Before I could climb down however, Rosorc jumped in, apparently intent on saving the halfling himself. After reaching the end of the rope, he called up for more— luckily 100’ was enough to reach Tassar.

When Tassar was pulled up, he showed off a nice adamantine sword and dagger, then promptly collapsed. We found out soon enough that he’d been the brief guest of three drow intent on poisoning him via crossbow bolts. Somehow the lone halfling, after landing in jail cell far below, had managed to kill one drow and pull his equipment over to the cell all while we were looking for a way to retrieve him. One of the bolts had obviously done its damage, but thankfully he was back with us before the poison took effect. Deitricha couldn’t rouse him, so she just picked him up so she could monitor his health while we continued on.

There was one more doorway in this little trapped hall— I examined it and found no traps. After opening it cautiously, Rosorc strode past me and began to travel the edges of the room— it appeared to be an old armory, with three arrow slits at the far end. Following Rosorc in, we inspected several racks of old rusty equipment propped around the room. We found a shield, throwing axe, and 6 well-made crossbow bolts still in useable condition, and I found another secret door— this led to the area behind the three arrow slits, clearly a point of defense for the dwarves. There was a secret door on the opposite wall as well, leading back into the armory. Off of all this was another small passage, leading to yet another hidden door, this time to an old barracks festooned with webs. Rosorc was walking ahead of me, clearly more comfortable in these catacombs than Tel-Quessir could ever be, and began to attempt burning them away with a torch. I saw movement in the webs and shouted a warning, but not before three large spiders dropped out and began to attack Rosorc. He was bitten several times before Areon and William had each dropped one of the monstrosities, and in the skirmish I accidentally hit Rosorc in the back with a bolt intended for the spider that was attacking him.

Deitricha has patched him up as well as she was able, though he is clearly weakened from the venom, so we are resting again in this hateful subterranean chamber— with Areon and I again keeping watch. I am sorely tempted to go searching for a way outside again, but as long as Areon stays down here, I will stay by his side.

Posted by Kristin on May 11, 2004, 14:26 | Theona’s Journal