Elminster the Sage

The Company of the Silver Coin
Amber the Ranger
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Book 2
Chapter 10- Beneath the Citadel (1359DR, 17th Eleint)

The Thieves Map of the CitadelThe first level of the Dungeons

It did not take long for sleep to overtake us. Our first day ashore had had more then its fair share of adventure. How long we slept in that chamber I do not know. Faergil told us he had cast the spell "Mordenkainen's Faithful Hound" to guard us while we slept. He said that the spell would last over six hours but the hound was gone when we awoke. (On both these accounts we had to take Faergil's word since the phantom hound the spell conjured was invisible to all but the caster.) As we began to stir from our deep, refreshing sleep we were started by the sound of the door banging against the frame; someone had tried to enter but found the door locked. Bazil, a master locksmith, had skilfully locked the door before going to sleep but when he went to unlock it luck (or more likely Gond) was not on his side and he was unable to do so. Luckily the person on the other side had a key, the door was unsealed and Andal entered.

Andal had brought with him a map of Carifar Citadel and a dark-haired half-elven woman who he introduced as "Lady Darkshadow". Lady Darkshadow lived up to her name, dressed entirely in black and moving with a liquid grace. Her pale features and dark eyes were framed by her black hair. Andal informed us that, of The Revenant's entire band, she knew the route to the dungeons beneath the castle the best.

I took the opportunity to ask if Bazil could have his sword back. With a smirk Andal agreed and returned Kithral, complementing Bazil on the quality of his sword as he did so. I continued to make light conversation with the thief while Faergil, Colatto and Bazil looked over the map. Andal confirmed my suspicions that many of The Revenant's traps used silver (so they could hurt the wererats). Unsurprisingly given the climate he was ignorant of the herb wolvesbane but when I described its use, by the time he left, he was very interested to know where he could get some. Before we set off the mages took the time to relearn their spells and Baldric and myself went through lengthy dedications to our respective deities. Lady Darkshadow simply waited in silence.

During this time Bazil got up to something rather unusual and not a little distracting. He gave Kithral and one of the short swords he got off the wererats to Primrose and, after blindfolding himself, asked her to place the two swords at his feet. Blindfolded he began to practice with first one weapon then the other, taking about half an hour before he seemed satisfied. Much later I was to learn the Bazil was suspicious of Andal and that "Kithral" might have been a fake (an illusion I suppose). Therefore he had devised a test.

Eventually we were prepared to go. Colatto and Faergil both cast minor spells of protection on themselves and, before we reached journey's end, Colatto cast one on Bann too.

Lady Darkshadow told us that taking a light would increase the danger of an already perilous journey so we would have to travel in darkness. She had inherited the famous "elven sight" from her elven parent, a gift which Faergil (of course) shared. Bazil and Primrose both of "Stoutish" decent and could see in the dark like dwarves (I have heard it said that the Stout clan of halfling have dwarven ancestors but that could be just an old wives tale). Though compared to my father I am virtually half-blind I had inherited enough of his ocular prowess to see in the dark better then all but the rarest dwarf or elf. That only left the three humans; Baldric, Bann and Colatto. Colatto was prepared and cast a long lasting spell on himself that gave him elven-sight. Baldric and Bann had to resign themselves to be led through the darkness.

The journey Lady Darkshadow took us on was as long, if not longer, then when Andle took us to see The Revenant. Time stopped having any meaning as we were led through a maze of passages, chambers and more passages. In one chamber we found stalactites and stalagmites of various size and age, I took the opportunity to harvest four of the smaller ones as they were the offering in a prayer I knew. Twice to my knowledge our guide led us around hidden traps (no-drought with silver points) and twice our route took us through concealed doorways. At one point we entered a chamber where shafts of daylight beamed in from pinprick holes in the ceiling.

Lady Darkshadow led us to what she informed us was one of the oldest parts of the catacombs and it did look old and not a little unstable. The way forward was through a low (five foot high) aperture in one wall. Somewhere in the chamber beyond was the way into the dungeons beneath the castle but other then vague rumours about it being beyond "the rags of curtains" she didn't know anymore. She informed us that she would check a distinctive circular chamber a little way back for our presence every twelve hours for the next few days. If she found us there she would take us back to the Revenant. With that she was off.

Once I was sure she was gone (you can never know for sure…thieves have good ears) I asked Colatto what he intended us to achieve. He replied that our objective would be twofold; we were to find the Crown of Fire and defeat Woren. Since the crown could be hidden anywhere in the citadel (Bann confirmed that though only a Carifer could use it anyone could carry it around) we would make for Woren's chambers and, if we had not found it on route, make the tyrant tell us where the crown was. Since this was Colatto's hour we deferred to his plan.

Bazil went ahead to scout out the area. I offered to place a charm on him that would warn him of traps. Bazil declined, in his view we would not have to worry about traps until after we had found a way in to the dungeons.

In the darkness we waited. I can just about remember a time when I couldn't see in the dark and I did not envy what Baldric and Bann were going through. Baldric took the opportunity to don his holy vestments over his clothing so if nessary he could invoke Tymora to make them as durable as chain mail. Before we had set off I had retrieved my shield and scimitar from Faergil's hole while Bann had kept hold of my staff to aid his disguise. Now we swapped over.

Within a few minutes of Bazil's departure those of us who could see became aware of a multitude of rats poring into the room from every crack and crevice and, apparently, heading towards us. Once he was told what was going on Baldric called out to Tymora and a miraculous ward prevented the rats from closing on us. Unfortunately even without the barrier they were more interested in going around us and through the opening after Bazil! Even before we heard his voice calling out to us we knew that Bazil has found trouble and were ducked through the hole after the rats.

Despite the low entrance the chamber beyond was as high as the one we had just left and apparently led into another, even larger cavern, though our view was blocked by a warn and thin curtain. Ahead we could see a mass of movement but it wasn't until Baldric pulled out a Light Stone for Bann and himself that we saw exactly how much trouble Bazil had managed to find.

Bazil was facing six wererats, each one armed with a slim short sword and a dagger, and three carrion-crawlers (if you have never seen a carrion-crawler it is a ten foot long, multi-legged worm with a large head from which sprout a forest of paralysing tentacles). In the larger chamber we could here heavy footfalls of something else but we could not see what it was. And closing on him rapidly was a carpet of rats and giant rats.

Wading through the rodents Colatto rushed to Bazil's side and began to cast a spell. Before the wererats could stop him they themselves were intercepted by a swarm of insects summoned by Faergil's magic. The carrion crawlers were outside the area of the spell however and lunged at Colatto and Bazil with their tentacles. Luckily the appendages are too light to cause damage and the pair was able to withstand the paralysing stings. Colatto was also able to keep it together enough to complete his spell, unleashing a blast of arctic wind that killed four of the wererats, most of Faergil's swarm and the curtain. The two remaining wererats fought on with the ferocity of cornered animals, their swordsmanship was no match for Bazil's agility but Colatto took a couple of hits. A second later the rats reached Bazil and Colatto swarming over them. By now Primrose and Bann had reached the fray. Primrose dispatched one of the remaining wererats. Bann delivered a skilled blow with the scimitar (he was clearly a highly skilled warrior) but the blade was neither magical nor silver and his wererat target shrugged it off. In an attempt to demoralise the wererat enough for it to either flee or surrender I invoked a minor miracle of light and, by centring it in his face, blinded the wererat. The wererat lashed out at Colatto blindly but didn't make contact.

Now the last of Bazil's pursuers burst into the cave. It was similar to the wererats in so much as it was humanoid with a rat's head, tail, claws and fur. But it was also almost twice as tall and it's hulking, bulky frame several times as heavy. It stank of decay and its fur was covered in ice crystals thanks to Colatto's spell, though it didn't appear bothered. It lunged at Colatto with its claws and teeth but only made contact with one hand. Bazil plunged both of his magical blades into the creature's flank but it was clearly made of tougher stuff then the wererats.

During the fight so far Faergil had been hanging back casting a spell which would result in the next being he touched being paralysed. Now he leapt into the battle with uncommon valour and tried, unsuccessfully, to place his hand on the hulking Rat-Thing

Throwing the Light Stone in ahead of him Baldric had entered the room and made for the nearest carrion-crawler, delivering a powerful blow with Twin-Death. Whether the wound would have been fatal I would never know as, a heartbeat later, Bann cleaved it in half. The two remaining carrion-crawlers continued to attack, trying unsuccessfully to paralyse the two halflings. Bann was quickly at Primrose's side and with two swings of the scimitar killed the carrion crawler that was attacking her. Not particularly wanting to kill if I had an alternative I tried another miracle of light, this time at the third carrion crawler. It moved its head at the last moment and it was the top of its cranium, rather then its large eyes, which began to glow. Deciding to resort to more basic methods I struck it a stunning blow across the head with my staff. It collapsed, alive but unconscious.

With the death of all but one of the wererats many of the rats they had summoned had left but there were still enough to spread themselves amongst us biting and scratching where they could.

The Rat-Thing had turned its attention on Bazil, who dodged its claws but not a vicious bite. The blinded wererat continued to hack frantically away at Colatto and by a fluke managed to score a couple of hits. Its luck abruptly ran out seconds later when Baldric caved its skull in. This gave Colatto the opportunity to press an attack on the Rat-Thing. Bann moved in to support him and he, Colatto and Bazil rained sword blows down on the creature (which clearly lacked the magical protection of the wererats). Through shear stamina the creature withstood the onslaught, just, but Faergil found the opening he needed and paralysed it. It didn't have to endure being helpless for long however as Colatto ran it through.

By now all the rats had departed except two the size of small dogs. Baldric killed one and I drove the other off.

As we surveyed the battlefield Bazil explained how he had gone as stealthily as he could through the curtain into the cavern beyond. The cavern had seemed to have several exits and as he had begun to explore he noticed a statue. Getting closer he found what he had then thought to be a rather crudely fashioned, disproportionate statue of a wererat. Now he realised that it was a rather lifelike effigy of the Rat-Thing. Before he could get a closer look he became aware of laughter behind him. Quick as a flash he had tumbled to one side and brought his weapons to bare only to find his way back across the cavern blocked by the six wererats. The wererats pounced but Bazil was too quick for them. He leapt safely over their heads and darted back the way he came. The wererats gave chase, as did something (the Rat-Thing as it turned out) from a passageway. Just as he reached the cave in which we found him so did the three carrion-crawlers, drawn by the noise and activity.

While Bazil had been talking the Rat-Thing had been quickly rotting away, prompting Baldric to speculate that it might have been some form of undead, and Colatto, much to my dismay, had dispatched the unconscious carrion-crawler.

Now we ventured into the large cavern. There were several smaller caves off of it in which we discovered the lairs of both the wererats and the carrion-crawlers. Acting on an intuition I removed the lens-like prism that Elminster had given me and looked around the cavern. Through the prism I could plainly see that there was an almost invisible, hinged panel in the chest of the statue Bazil has told us about. The fact that the prism could find concealed doorways was encouraging and I pointed it out to Bazil. He opened it to find a pouch containing a pair of large sapphires.

Faergil had found another passage hidden in the shadows and Bazil went down it to investigate. He returned a couple of minutes later with the new that it led into a small room that showed signs of being man-made. Down we went. The room was as Bazil had described and had no visible exit. I invoked the trap finding charm on Bazil and after he told us it was all clear we entered and began a search for the concealed door we suspected was there. Yes, I could have just used the prism but I didn't want to become over reliant on it nor did I know if it could only be used a limited number of times. (After all Elminster had given it to me so we could by-pass the magic that hide the DarkWatch) As it was it was Faergil's delicate touch that found the skilfully concealed door. After giving it a look over Bazil told us to hide the light sources we had been using since the fight and, opening it, he stepped into Woren's dungeon.

The room by which we entered was perhaps a little disappointing, being as it was simply a storeroom that had decayed through disuse. Once we were all in we released the secret door through which we had entered and it swung back in to place via some cunning arrangement of weights.

Bazil was to be our guide through the dungeons with Colatto, who was by then wearing his magical cloak, a few paces behind. We would travel in darkness as much as possible in an attempt to hide our presence. The few times a light was produced, usually to search rooms, Baldric took to sketching a map showing what we had found.

As Bazil approached the door that led out of the storeroom he stopped in his tracks. The charm had alerted him to a wicked poison-needle trap (though the venom had gone bad with time) in the door's lock. Expertly he set to work disarming it and then unlocking the door to reveal a corridor heading straight ahead. Right in front of the door Bazil found a second trap. This one was a trap door. It seemed to be intended for people going towards the storeroom (which must have made collecting supplies quite an adventure) as the hinged edge of the trapdoor was at Bazil's feet. With a boost from Colatto Bazil leapt the ten feet across the pit and quickly wedged the lid shut with the daggers he had claimed from the wererats.

The next room we investigated turned out to be the dungeon cells, fourteen tiny, cage-fronted cells set in pairs off a narrow corridor. Other then a scavenging rat there were no sign of life in the cells. In a nearby room we found an office, possibly it had been that of the jailer, but it was now in disrepair.

As Bazil headed off down a new corridor he discovered that the charm I had placed on him had expired when he was hit in the leg by an arrow. Moving up to Bazil I called upon Silvanus first to heal the wound and then renew the charm (I renewed it several times over the next few hours). Bazil reported that he could now see dozens of similar traps lining the corridor ahead, each one linked to one of the corridor's flagstones.

Colatto quickly came up with a plan to get us across. Using the power of his cloak he took the form of a harpy and flew us one at a time along the corridor to the safety of the connecting corridor.

As Colatto shuttled The Company across Bazil continued his search. Primrose and Bann were next across but just as Colatto had returned to collect Faergil, Baldric or myself we head sounds of a struggle from ahead. Grabbing Faergil, Colatto flew back down the corridor, Baldric and I telling him to stay and help the others rather then come back for us. Together we waited. The dark was no problem for me but it must have made the wait ten times worse for Baldric. Eventually, just as Baldric was giving serious consideration to placing his life in The Lady's hands and dashing down the corridor, Colatto returned. As he ferried us down the passage Colatto told us that while investigating a small but (once) well furnished bedroom he had found, Bazil had spotted a chest of money in a partially collapsed wardrobe. Since the charm had not revealed a trap he had taken a closer look only to have the chest attack him! It had grown a pseudopodia, which had all the appearance of being wood, and struck him with it with considerable force. Then the primitive arm had stuck to him like glue and he found himself being dragged towards a rapidly opening maw in the "chest's" side. Luckily Bail's arms were free and he began to stab at his attacker, as did Bann as soon as Primrose drew out a Light Stone. (Primrose would have joined in too but she couldn't get around Bann). The creature, which both Baldric and Primrose identified as a shape-changing predator called a "Mimic", took quite a pounding from Bazil and Bann. It managed to get another two pseudopodia onto Bazil before it succumbed to the swords and a flurry of magical missiles from Colatto.

As we arrived we discovered that Bazil now had a new problem, he was still glued to the now dead mimic. Both Baldric and Primrose had heard that alcohol would devolve the glue, a theory that we disproved when we tipped a flask of wine over Bazil. We were puzzling over how to free Bail when the three pseudopodia simply fell away of their own accord. Plainly a mimic's glue does not survive long after its demise.

The door to the to the mimic's lair was one of two. The second led to another bedroom almost identical to the one that had contained the mimic. Bazil didn't seem too inclined to search this one so Faergil and Baldric gave it a once over (once they had proved to their satisfaction that none of the rotting furnishings were another lurking mimic). Meanwhile Colatto ferried us back past the dart traps so we could check out a corridor and doorway we had previously bypassed. At the bottom of a chest Baldric and Faergil found a sword and an ivory scroll tube. Whoever had prepared the sword for storage had done a fine job and it was in excellent condition. Once he learnt of the sword's existence Bann asked if he could have it, relegating the scimitar to a back-up weapon. After examining the scroll from the ivory tube Faergil announced that it had been inscribed with a magical ward and whoever read it, whether mage or not, would be guarded from undead.

The door we had until now neglected led into the most ghoulish room we had encountered so far as it was empty except for some fifty human (or at least humanoid) skulls.

This left only a single corridor we hadn't explored. It wasn't overly long and led into what had once been a library. Time had worked to undermine the library as it does with all things; the shelves had collapsed and of the books only their tougher bindings had survived. A pair of doors led off of the library. One led into another bedchamber, larger then the two we had previously found but still ruined by neglect and time. The second door opened onto a large room. It was not clear what the room's function had been but it had suffered more then the others at the hands of time, the far end having collapsed in on itself. In the room were the dry and brittle bones of some long forgotten unfortunate. I noticed that that the ring-mail armour that still hung around the fleshless body was intact and suggested to Bann that he might want it. Bann agreed and, after removing as many flacks of the previous owner as we could, he donned it. I doubted there were many in the city above our heads that would have recognised blind, mad Bann by now. Kited out with swords, shield and armour he looked more like Elladyr the Knight-Protector.

Now we had a problem. We had checked down every corridor and in every room we had found but none had revealed a way up into the citadel. It was possible that the way onward could have been destroyed when the room with the dead warrior had collapsed but we put that theory aside and instead stated an extensive check for another concealed door.

Faergil found the second secret door as well. Opening the door we found a set of steep stair going upwards. Following them we found a corridor heading to our left. The corridor seemed to run some sixty feet before ending in a thick curtain. About halfway along one wall was a door and, with Bazil in the lead, we headed towards it. Beyond was another bedroom, the largest we had found so far (it had a walk-in closet bigger then the cells we had found in the level below). I was by then beginning to wonder who had lived in all these bedrooms, shut away from the light of day and the fresh air. Perhaps, I mused, they had been cells for prisoners of higher value (though that didn't explain the sword or scroll) or maybe slaves.

After giving the bedroom a quick search we headed down the corridor. As we approached the "curtain" it became apparent that it was in fact a thick mass of webbing. What was more the corridor, which ran on for about another eighty-feet, was swathed in thick cobwebs. We closed formation, Bazil was still at the front but Colatto was now at his shoulder and using his sword to sweep aside the curtains of webbing. As we proceeded deeper into the corridor, all our senses alert for trouble, we passed several bundles of spider silk ranging in size up to as large as a man's head. Some of them may have been large rats, cocooned by the spiders to feed on later, but the larger bundles were almost certainly masses of spider eggs.

About forty feet into the webbing we came across a rather unusual corpse. It was humanoid in form, naked, but seemed to be a composite of several different animals. It was part man, part animal, part bird and part fish. But rather then its many parts being blended into one hybrid being each of the parts that made it up was separate. The bet way I could describe it was like a "half-elf" who was human on his left side and elven on the right. The being could easily have been considered grotesque or freakish but I had had some experience as being regarded an oddity and my heart went out to it. As to the creature's origin we were stumped. When I described it to Elladyr he couldn't put a name it which meant it was unlikely to be some being native to the area. As we left the poor unfortunate I mused that we had heard vague rumours that Woren practised the foulest of magics, Necromancy. Could this have been the result?

My thoughts were interrupted by a soft call from Bazil; he had seen movement ahead. Those of us that could see in the darkness strained our eyes to the front; yes there was movement ahead. It had to be spiders but the web curtains made seeing detail difficult. Baldric produced a Light Stone. Its steady light instantly banished the darkness revealing that moving with fluid grace towards us along floor, walls and ceiling were about a dozen spiders, each over ten feet in span.


Chapter 11...

DM's Notes

I used the following references:
Vilhon Reach.
Didn't use much in the way of resources this week (other than the normal three - PHB, DMG, MM), as it was all my own stuff.
The undergound maps have been downloaded off the Internet (I'm far too busy to spend time making up maps). I think they came from the wizards.com site. The Citadel is actually the map of Castle Spulzeer, again the full adventure is available at the WotC website.
The 'Rat Thing' is from the Marco Volo Departure adventure.

The game went rather slowly, but this is basically because it was dungeon-based and we're not really a 'Dungeon' group of gamers.
The encounter with the wererats, rats, Rat-Thing, and Carrion Crawlers was rather chaotic but fun. It wasn't really that dangerous considering the level of the characters, but I like to maintain the illusion. The Rat Fiend is immune to cold-based attacks, which proved useful considering Collato's Cone of Cold! Well, it lasted a couple more rounds in any case...
The were rats lair (see map) had about 3000cp amongst other things. Faergil (Ian) was considering emptying it all into his Portable Hole until someone pointed out that it was worth about 30gp...
Once the characters found the secret door in the 'dungeons' they were very consious of traps and took it very carefully. Edd and I had a discussion about disarming Pit traps, and I think we still disagree on the details, but Bazil managed to stop it claiming any lives.
Thorn (Nick) spent most of his 2nd level spells casting Detect Traps on Bazil which helped things move on.
It has been a number of years since I ran a true Dungeon so decided to introduce to few cliches into the mix; pit traps, arrow traps, and of course a mimic. I chose not to include a Gelatinous cube, and the party missed the room full green slime ;-)

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