Wherein a lie is told, wards are broken, and Pandora ain't got nuthin on this party.

 Game Time: Tuesday morning

After a grueling fight against some carnivorous plants and what may have been animals, the group cooled their heels for a few moments in a bizarre underground greenhouse to survey the situation.  They found a dessicated corpse laid out in the dirt where one of the bushes had been crouching in wait.  The corpse had in its possession the dry-rotted remains of a leather pouch holding together a pile of gold and silver coins, a necklace with a crusty brass key, some heavily rusted chain mail and an elegant short sword that has almost entirely rusted through.  There was a lacquered wood scroll case, but the documents inside have crumbled to dust.  The brass key is on a chain necklace bound to a thin gold circular medallion; the medallion is stamped with an image of a crown encircling an obelisk or a tombstone of some sort.  The letters "BC" are on the crown in a fairly old script, possibly Old Common, but nobody seemed to know what they stood for. The coins total 17g 39s but are not modern currency.

Near the fountains, Rache noted that the violet moss bore a striking resemblance to the "Violet Feymoss" that Osmund Gutar had asked for. With Bree and Darg helping, the three of them were able to collect two small jars of the moss in reagent containers.  Hopefully the moss will keep well enough for Osmund's purposes, and the party will be able to return to him to collect their reward.

After carefully dividing up the spoils and the curious personal effects of the dead man, the party walked over to the stairwell to examine the glowing yellow runes that hovered there in the air. Engraved on the stone around the stairwell were the words "Whom do you seek to honor?"  Despite the Fey origin of everything else in the room, Terciel was apparently unable to see the glowing runes, and after some investigation, Rache and Bree came to the conclusion that some sort of warding magic was at work.  Lenora's hand, clenched around an orange fey rose, was unable to penetrate the barrier – but the rose was.  Bree jumping up and down vigorously was unable to penetrate the barrier, which threw off blue halos and sparks whenever her feet touched the runes.  Terciel was able to reach through the invisible barrier with no ill effects.  He cleared his throat and stated that he sought to honor the veterans of the Great War.  Nothing appeared to happen.  Darg thought back to his conversation with Terciel and remembered a word he had heard – he said he sought to honor General Sûlkano from the Great War, and before his eyes the runes faded away.  Bree repeated the phrase while standing on the
runes, and fell through as soon as she said the word "Sûlkano". Terciel blushed darkly at first, glowered at Darg, and then his eyes turned to the far corners of the room to avoid his comrades' gaze as they each repeated the word "Sûlkano" and cleared away the glowing runes blocking the stairwell.  He bit his lip and exhaled sharply when even Rache nonchalantly muttered the phrase: "I seek to honor the Sûlkano."

The party descended the stairwell and found a small quiet  chamber with a single sarcophagus in the middle.  A brazier lit the far end of the room and a statue of an archer stood watch over the stone coffin. Engraved on the lid were the words


Lenora remarked that this was the second place they had encountered the phrase "Barrow stone" and that it bore more than a passing resemblance to the word "Baerstun".  Terciel didn't hear a word of it: his eyes were fixed on the indigo hide armor adorning the statue, and the glittering filament hanging from the statue's hand.  The fact that they had not rotted away was enough to convince Terciel that they were more than ordinary; on closer inspection Terciel knew that he must put them to better use, and with an apology he laid an orange rose on the tomb and fitted the indigo hide armor over his ragged clothing.  He restrung his bow, said a quiet prayer, and the party filed out after paying their respects.

As the party quietly filed out of the tomb, they overheard some low voices from the direction of the Map Room.  Rache understood enough of their language to realize that they were discussing pretty much what the party was now discussing in low voices: each group had heard the other.  Rache stepped out of the shadows and faced them directly – "Turn back!" she said, "we are the guardians of this tomb."  The orcs conferred amongst themselves and decided that they only needed to respect the dead guardians of the tomb, and drew their scimitars. Rache warned them to put away their weapons.

A heavyset sergeant led the assault bravely, and a squeaky-voiced spellcaster flitted around the edges of the combat hurling bolts of hissing brown and green energy.  Four scouts dropped the heavy chest they were carrying and flung themselves into the fight headlong.  In a few moments it was clear that they were overmatched.  Thea planted her feet in the hallway and set into them with her greataxe, and within a few seconds the warlock had retreated behind the pillar, flinging curses at everyone he could see.  The sergeant continued to swing his glaive at Bree, and with every miss exposed himself to a more dire tactical situation.  Thea and Lenora waded in after him while Darg, Rache, and Terciel showered him with ranged attacks… overwhelmed, he made a brave final push toward the front, drawing strength from his untenable position.  Rache pointed a finger in his direction, traced a shape in the air as she muttered a quiet curse, and then snapped her fingers viciously as she spat out the last syllable – a flash of black energy shot into his mouth, down his throat, and exploded his heart instantly.  He fell in a limp heap, blood pooling from his mouth.  The scouts dropped back in confusion before surging back to the fight, even more enraged.

The orcish witch doctor got his feet under him and poked out from around the other side of the pillar.  He dodged the blast from Bree's explosive covering fire, stumbled past the smoldering sea-trunk, and fired back a blinding torrent of filth.  Bree wiped the muck out of her eyes and responded with a spell of her own, singeing him and aggravating his already-short temper.  He howled out a curse and aimed his rod at Bree again, this time backing the blast of cursed muck with a purple-black bolt of energy that nearly blew her out of her shoes. By the time Darg got to her, she was already unconscious, but a bit of the old Moradinnic Mojo got her back into the swing of things.  Her vision cleared, she stood up to look for another target, but the warlock had ducked behind the pillar again.  Focused on the little staffling who had given him so much trouble, he failed to see Terciel stalking closer.  The warlock ducked behind the pillar, stepped out from the other side, and caught a finely-polished steel-and-walnut arrow in his eye.  The force of the blow drove the arrowhead through the back of his skull and dropped him like a rock.

Snicker-snack, flail and axe… the scouts were outnumbered and dropping under the relentless assault, and when the second of the four fell, the two remaining orcs fell back.  Nilgor retreated into the next room and hollered to Kreb to run and warn Tarin.  Lenora was the first to realize the strategic disaster that their escape would bring on them: undead from below, rats from above, and reinforcements.  She gave chase until she ended up in the dark, and then cracked a sunrod open.  The shadows jumped back to reveal Nilgor with one arm raised, ready to strike, and the other thrown over his eyes as he swung.  He missed horribly, and Lenora snatched at his wrist, gave a deft twist, and wrenched him down onto his knees, leveling her flail with his eyes and forcing his surrender.  She hollered to the rest to give chase, and exhorted Rache to take advantage of her superior positioning to get a lantern into the dark hallway down which Kreb had fled.

Kreb threw the lever that opened the map room doorway and scrambled to leave, but Rache hurried to the switch room, threw the lever back, and Kreb skidded to a halt. He tapped tentatively at the illusion, then turned and drew his scimitar unconvincingly… he had seen what happened to the sergeant and clearly wanted no part of it.  Rache doodled a gesture in the air as she offered to end his life – all he had to do was make a move with the sword other than surrender.

With the two prisoners firmly in hand and at the mercy of the group, Thea and Bree played Big Cop/Little Cop with them to find out what they knew… other than the names "Tarin" and "Thurig" the two were either honestly clueless about their mission or very crafty.  They seemed to want to know what was in the heavy trunk they were carrying as much as anyone in the party did.  A search of their comrades revealed the following:

- The witch doctor was carrying a scroll case with a rolled up scrap of paper inside; on the paper is a crude cartoon indicating how to solve the puzzle lock.  He was wearing a silver key and a signet around his neck.  He was carrying a coin purse with 14.72.59 in coins; a few thick linen rags and bandages are bundled ineffectually among the coins as though to stifle jingling.

- The sergeant was carrying 75 silver, 40 copper wrapped tightly in a clean linen bandage and packed tightly in his coin purse with four more clean bandages, a stub of a grease pencil, and a scrap of paper divided into five columns with various denominations and notations. He has a flask with some very very strong alcohol and another flask with a foul-smelling semi-caustic oil in it.  In his backpack he's carrying two bedrolls, several trail rations, and a small watertight lockbox.  The sergeant's lockbox had seven waterproof scroll cases, a few quill pens, some ink, and a sheaf of blank papers, along with a sand bottle and some sealing wax.

- The scouts were not carrying coin purses; each was carrying a bedroll, a change of clothes, one day of trail rations, twenty feet of hempen rope, and a few clean bandages.  The largest of them appears to have also stashed some nuts, jerky, and dried fruit into a messenger's pouch that he's wearing under his clothes.

In addition to his glaive, the sergeant was carrying a wicked-looking flail with a handle made of black lacquered wood and steel flail heads with wickedly curved sharktooth spikes.  The witch doctor's corpse yields a raggedly-hemmed black robe with crimson trim that seems to shimmer and thrum distractingly, and a heavy rod with a braid of dark bronze, black iron, and yellow brass wrapped around the handle.  The finial is a smoky quartz sphere grasped in three claws (one of each metal) and the ferrule is a simple iron spike.  Lenora took the flail, Rache took the rod, and Bree slipped the robe on – the hemming that the warlock had done to traverse the sewers made it a nearly perfect full-length robe… albeit a bit long in the sleeves.

[And here the Maestro laid down his pen …until after the holidays.  – Ed]



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