The first usage of a black gate, some unexpected undead and the group now wants to know where the vampire keeps his coffin. Yet one more thing on the list of stuff not known. Merxif’s player has wanted to use that skull for a while – twice before he was ready, but other actions taken before his turn made it not worthwhile. Another unusual secret door. I’ve ruled that knock spells don’t open secret doors with complex mechanisms – some doors require a specific task to open. The arena combat was fun. I’d expected that one or two people might enter and trigger the event, rather than the whole group at once. The initial summoned creatures were no threat, but the air elemental in whirlwind form rolled over the whole group in one round and picked up most of them (auto damage each round, and penalties on their attacks).
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7th Patchwall: Each of the five passages is cautiously examined. Most end in false doors, each trapped in a different way. An old skeleton in a pit yields some treasure – most notably a bag of holding with an assortment of gear and a stuffed parrot that provides considerable amusement. The central passage appears to end with an open pit, but both the pit and far wall are an illusion, behind which is a “black” gate showing a still image of the Fals Hold courtyard – one that shows everything in good condition, not ruined and abandoned. Hardaz walks through; the others wait but hear no noise. They see nothing different in the image – no dwarf appears. Merxif walks through tied to a rope and Bacon plays out the length. He is unable to pull the rope back, but it remains tight as he presumes the gnome continues forward. Everyone else follows. All have emerged in the courtyard of the Hold at the position seen in the image. It appears to be early morning as all is in deep shadow, but sunlight can be seen on the hills to the south and west. The courtyard is full of ruin and long grass and they surmise that they have not travelled in time.
Movement within the main building proves to be some well armoured skeletons. A voice calls out from further in – someone trapped by the undead. When they enter the hall and attack, a human emerges and flanks a skeleton. Merxif draws his blue skull and casts Undeath to death. Three of the skeletons are reduced to dust, and the human screams – becoming a cloud of mist that retreats through the building.
The group suspects he was a vampire and gives chase. There is a faint disturbance in the dust on the floor, and Bacon locates a secret door in the northern wall of the old kitchen. Opening it, he and Lanliss hear noise from the guard tower nearby. The group hurry out and find four ghouls, two of which are digging at the pile of rubble. The ghouls are killed without anyone being wounded. Lanliss thinks they should check the towers regularly when they come to the keep, since this is about the third time they have found a ghoul or more than one in this tower. The dwarves start shifting rubble and soon reveal a large stone trapdoor. Once they can open it, there is a ladder going down and then stairs. A secret door opens onto the level where many undead where encountered before. The mist form is now long gone and the group return to the ground floor building. Another search of the kitchen finds the skeleton of a goblin under rubble, along with a magical ring of resistance. The gear of the skeleton warriors is mostly masterwork and happily looted.
The group proceed down to the Hall of the Gods where they activate the statue of Baravar (Merxif’s patron, Gnomish deity of Trickery and Illusion), gaining a wand of Sanctuary. They continue back to the caves where they were earlier, aiming to fill in the holes on their map starting to the east. There is some minor magical items retrieved from the nests of the birds. Close-by caves have normal size vermin, mostly rats and spiders, though a giant scorpion attacks Lanliss.
Further to the west, a long tunnel has a large smooth block of stone engraved “NEWS” with many cut and scratched messages in different languages. They determine that there is a hollow behind the block and think that it can slide upwards, but can’t find any way to make it move. A cave with fallen rock hides some silver coins. While they start moving rocks to uncover the coins they are attacked by invisible enlarged grey dwarves and a priest. The rocks and rubble on the floor make the combat more challenging as the group has difficulty moving to support each other. The dwarves have an assortment of useful gear, though a lot of it isn’t worth selling. The next cave has two tall hooded statues. There is nothing remarkable about them, but a silver chalice and pouch of magical black soot is found hidden away in a gap behind one statue. A little more exploration shows they have now linked all the passages on their map. They are disappointed that there appears to be no other access to the space behind the western secret door, which could be fairly large.
Up to fungi caves, and through to the great staircase. Going up a hundred feet brings them to a small room with a stone table, and an archway of purple flame marked “Trial of Fire”. Bacon runs through, being badly burnt and looks around a little bit then yells back to the group what he could see. On the wall is a circular depression divided into four parts. He drinks a potion of healing and rests while the group discuss how or if they should proceed. Eventually they realise that they have means to provide fire resistance. Merxif uses a wand on Lanliss who passes through the wall of fire without harm. Together Lanliss and Bacon look at each of the four chambers. The first is a set of short passages with jets of flame shooting out from the walls. They determine a pattern to the jets and Lanliss works out a safe position to run to and observe the next part of the puzzle. He soon makes his way through safely and recovers a curved section of white glass that would fit into the circular hole at the fire arch. The second hall is low, has a smooth metal floor and many blocks of stone that stick out of the floor and ceiling. They realise that the floor heats and cools in a regular pattern, and when it reaches its coolest, Lanliss moves quickly through the hall, using acrobatics to rolls and pivot around the obstacles to the other end. He claims a yellow curved glass pieces and returns.
The third hall has a floor covered in flickering blue flames, throughout which raised stepping-stones protrude. He carefully jumps from stone to stone, taking his time and at the end finds an orange piece of curved glass. The last chamber has another wall of flame. On one side a stone ramp leads up and over the high point of the flame, and on the other side a water filled tunnel looks to go under the flames. Lanliss notes that the water is warm, not hot and strips down. He swims through emerging beyond the wall of flame and takes the fourth glass piece – red. Returning, he dries off in the heat of the flame wall and then he an Bacon place all the pieces into the wall hole. The initial flame barrier vanishes. Both Lanliss and Bacon feel quite cool, and Seldrel determines that they both have a powerful fire resistance spell active. The others enter, and they see that the fire effects in all the halls have ceased.
Further up the stairs there is a hall engraved with images of warriors fighting in an arena. A large room with four warrior statues is surrounded by a balcony. A magical summoning symbol is engraved on the floor. The group enters together and a bell rings. A voice announces that the challenge will begin with the second bell. Merxif casts prayer, Seldrel blur on himself and Merxif. They position themselves and small fire elemental appears. It is killed quickly, but replaced by a giant wasp, then a wolverine, then a large air elemental. Only the air elemental is a challenge – forming a whirlwind it glides about the room battering everyone and picking up Lanliss, Hardaz, Winter and Merxif. A combination of magic and melee eventually defeat it. A bell rings, and everyone is fully healed.