Session 9: Back to the Manor
11th to 15th Flaurmont
Leaving the next morning, the PC’s accompany Sir Retameron to his home, a tower house on the outskirts of the Verge. Along the way, Hans keeps his eyes peeled for any reaction to his presence from the villagers of Verge, but, in keeping with the tradition of the Shearing, all the villagers act as though he is a stranger. To his great regret, he does not catch a glimpse of his young sister on this occasion, though he leave a split twig entwined with another outside the door of his parents house as a sign that he still lives.
Retameron and his wife, both successful adventurers (in that they both lived to retire though all their former companions are dead) entertain the party, wining them and dining them, offering advice on how to defeat various monsters and sharing a number of amusing adventuring anecdotes. The only other dinner guest that evening is a young illusionist named Memnon, who, taking pity on the ragged state of the two dwarves, casts Phantasmal Armour on each of them (one at night, the other in the morning) to help them survive the trials they can expect beneath Caldwell Manor. As Memnon explains, a seasoned band of adventurers went down below the Manor House two weeks ago and has not been seen or heard from since.
The next days dawns rainy and grey. The Shorn arrive in Threshold in late afternoon and make an immediate bee-line for the home of Artax. A very miffed and unhappy Apple Merryweather “greets” them and sends them upstairs to the office of the sage. Artax seems completely oblivious to a number of things, but most especially to the fact the party is two weeks late. The old sage explains that his initials findings were incorrect and that the Holy Symbol in, in fact, an old symbol of the destructive and hateful god Thanatos. He returns the amulet to them and further explains that the parchment they found was a coded item of correspondence from someone called Elwyn. It contained little of significance to the party, being mostly small talk and the exchange of news, save for one small passage in which this Elwyn extorts the unnamed recipient to “ward the entrance to the hidden temple most closely”.
Elra asks who Elwyn is and receives an admonishment from Artax that he is not a source of free gossip (and another admonishment from the DM that he isn’t writing up these adventure reports for fun -and that if the players can’t keep decent notes that’s their problem). Contrite, the party leave and make their way out of town towards the Manor. Realising that by the time they reach their destination, it will have become quite late, they decide not to exasperate Caldwell any farther by turning up at his door expecting a bed for the night. Instead, the camp in the ruined hamlet just south of the Manor house, in the very same hut that they slept in just a few weeks before.
Shortly after dawn breaks, they present themselves at the Manor House, where a rather nonplussed servant informs that they the master will not see them, but that should they wish to finish the job they were contracted to perform, they may enter the lower level of the Manor -but will receive only half pay. Content with this, the Shorn follow the servant to the formerly mage-locked door. Inside the warded room, they find a band of wary mercenaries surrounding a heavily chained trapdoor. The mercenaries explain the coded knocking system to the characters and them permit them to descend down into the darkness.
The trap-door shuts behind them with a rather final-sounding clunk. Moments later, a black leather-clad woman bearing a remarkable resemblance to Klara comes rushing into the room. She explains that her companions and her have everything under control and demand the Shorn return upstairs. Suspicious, Hans invites her to knock the code. Exasperated, the woman replies that she’s been down here for nearly two weeks and the code has probably changed. Hans cleverly asks about the womans companions. He learns that her leader, a black-leather clad dwarf (a description matching that of the leader of the other adventuring company given them by Retameron). Hans then insists that the woman take the group to meet the dwarf but the woman refuses to interrupt his experiments in the laboratory. She insists that she will not allow another group of adventurers to go traipsing through “their’ dungeon and promises to bring her leader to the group if they will wait in this room. The Shorn agree. The woman leaves and locks the only exit behind her.
Conferring among themselves quietly, the Shorn agree that there’s something not quite right about the woman or her story. They decide to speak to the guards for to obtain a better description (and names) for the other adventuring party that came down before them. No sooner is the trapdoor opened however (a lengthy and noisy process) than a black-clad dwarf wearing armour identical to the woman’s (and a good few sizes to big) leaps through the suddenly open door, shouts about monsters having stolen the shape of his companions, and bolts up the stairs, yelling for the guards to the shut the trapdoor behind him. The flabbergasted Shorn are too slow to prevent the trapdoor being slammed shut in their faces and nothing they can do, not all of their pounding and shouting, can persuade the guards to open up again.
Clearly, they are trapped.
With nothing else for it, they begin to explore, grateful that the “dwarf” left the key in the lock at least. In their very first room they encounter two clearly mad young wizards, who make frequent comments about how “fresh” and “plump” the Shorn look. In moments, as Hans stands watch outside, his companions slump unconscious to the floor, the victims of a sleep spell. Hans charges into action, standing astride the fallen forms of his friends. Though he takes several dagger blows and a solid magic missile hit to the chest, he manages to slay one mage and disarm the other. The second immediately offers to ’split the fallen ones down the middle”. Hans, in something of a quandary as to whether he should simply kill the clearly deranged fool or tie him up for interrogation and (hopefully) a cure, dithers too long and his torch gutters out. The second mage immediately retrieves his dagger and attacks, again striking Hans while the fighter tries to light a torch. In the end though, the human warrior is victorious and the magic-user goes down. He quickly revives his friends, receives a cure spell for his troubles, and then joins his companions in looting the room.
Having a bad feeling about those two mages, Boindil suggests cutting off their heads. The party seem puzzled but have been sufficiently freaked by their brief encounter with the mad wizards to agree to the suggestion. Cleverly (and somewhat accidentally) preventing the two cannibals from reviving as ghouls later on that night.
The next room they explore is eighty foot wide and only partially carved out from the earth. All the Shorn hear a persistent buzzing noise but, rather than trust their instincts and bail out while they can, Hans insists on poking a torch into every shadow. It is matter of mere moments thereafter, before he is down and bleeding from a split skull under the onslaught of four very annoyed, very insistent giant flies.
With their main muscle down and plenty of supplies in their possession, The Shorn retreat back to the first room, locking it behind them. They rest for three days to allows Hans to recover from his injuries and prepare to set out into the dungeon once more.