Chapter 15: Piecing Together the Puzzle

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Session Number: 68
Date: Sunday 3 October 2010
Venue: Fergus'
PCs & Players:

Arrian Rog1/Clr8 (Fergus) (kills: none)
Emily Ftr3/Rog6 (Yeran) (kills: none)
Feren Rog9 (Yeran) (kills: none)
Rowaine Pal9 (Craig) (kills: none)
Troll Wiz9 (Densial) (kills: Wet Papa Grazuul)

XP Awarded: TBC

The huge, spiny aquatic creature glares at the intruders after its failed attempt at pulling Rowaine into its pool, the malice and frustration plain in its eyes. With its clawed left hand it tears the flesh from its face horribly, exposing bone beneath. Green and red gore drips down its briefly ruined face.

Feren figures that perhaps moving away from the creature might be a good idea. He moves to the left door and pushes it open. The room beyond extends to the right, Feren can just see an unusual alcove further along the wall opposite. It appears to house a scale model of the dam. He steps in, intrigued, and sees a small pool on the floor adjacent to the east wall, with steps leading down into it. Feren moves back.

Arrian steps to the right and casts Searing Light. A white ray blasts into the creature's chest. It pays this new injury no attention. Troll levels his Magic Missile wand at the creature and a glowing purple bead of force slams into its head. Troll then moves to his left towards the far door.

"Back to the depths, you fiend!" rebukes Rowaine as she smites the creature viciously, opening a deep gash in its flank that immediately stops bleeding. She follows it up with another, which also strikes well. She steps back, feeling for the wall behind her.

Shalélu fires an arrow at Emily…

That'll teach Tammi for not showing up

… that flies past the rogue and buries itself in the monster's upper leg. Jakardros also moves and looses an arrow that strikes true.

The dripping creature thrusts its military fork in two abrupt jabs at Rowaine, who cannot avoid either strike. The sheer power behind the stroke bests her armour and Rowaine gasps at the pain. "Moradin, that thing is strong!" she thinks. The creature then steps back. Arrian and Rowaine notice that its arms now bear large slashing wounds - wounds that they have not inflicted…

Vale bellows as he closes. The creature extends it long, thin arm and skewers Vale on the end of its weapon, stopping him short. More slashes rip open the creature's forearm and upper arm. Vale manages to stumble forwards, the wide arc of his battle axe connecting with the creature's midriff. Emily paces north through the door to the right, wheels around and back up to the wall, arrow drawn.

Feren moves northeast towards where the action is. Arrian attempts to heals Rowaine but the creature foils his touch with a well-aimed stab. Troll moves into the northern end of the east chamber and Fireballs the room. Boom! Vale flinches - unnecessarily, the only creature in the spell's area is the monster. It avoids much of the blash by virtue of its lower half being submerged. Rowaine takes four paces forwards and swings her heavy axe, parting yet more rubbery flesh. Shalélu paces forwards and looses an arrow, taking care not to hit Rowaine. Her arrowhead embeds itself in the creature's upper back. Jakardros finds favourable ground and bends his bow; the arrow hits home. Troll glances into the pool. It is some fifteen feet deep, its bottom dish-like. Troll looks for any other submerged exits but cannot make any out.

The creature dives, disappearing towards the central pool and displacing water that splashes onto the stone floor. Vale backtracks into the central room, looking aroud for the creature. He cannot locate it but keeps his axe ready just the same. Emily notices where Vale looks and covers the same area with her bow.

Feren moves to the poolside and readies a rapier stab. Arrian touches Rowaine's shoulder, mitigating the worst of her two recent injuries. Troll stays behind Emily and readies a Fireball. Shalélu moves in front of Troll protectively and covers the water with her bow. Jakardros sprints towards the southwest door.

The creature bursts out of the central pool's northeast corner, right beside Shalélu, fork conspicuously absent. Troll considers his Fireball, but cannot target it and avoid all his allies. He considers incinerating Jakardros as collateral damage but decides against the idea. The creature claws at Shalélu, opening ragged wounds where her armour fails to protect. Vale steps back behind the main door, making room for Rowaine, who moves in and casts Bless. Emily steps then looses three arrows, two of which mark the creature.

Feren scurries forwards then rolls adjacent to the creature. He regains his feet and stabs his rapier deep into the creature's neck. Its knees buckle and it slumps into the pool, slowly submerging. Arrian moves and Cures Vale while Troll Fiery Bursts the creature's back. Its skin hisses and blisters appear on its back. Troll then moves towards the northwest portion of the central room.

Shalélu grabs the creature's blistered arm before it completely slips beneath the water's filthy surface, and hooks it over the side of the pool. She watches the creature for any stirring, ready to let go and jump back at a moment's notice. Jakardros continues to cover the creature. Vale shuffles forwards and slams his axe into the creature's back, intent upon keeping it down. Rowaine sees Shalélu struggling with the creature's weight and moves to help. She grabs a knee and manages to hooks its foot over the side. Emily aims an arrow at the creature's exposed side but the arrow flies low and hits the water.

Feren continues to stab his rapier into the creature's neck. Troll spurts Acid, the volley landing squarely on the creature's upper back and eating away at its flesh.

With Shalélu and Rowaine holding the creature out of the water, Vale and Feren keeping it unconscious, and Troll dousing it with Acid, the thing doesn't stand a chance. It dies.

With the creature disposed of, Troll ventures over to the model of the dam with Shalélu. Arrian and Feren search the huge pile of skulls, looking for nasty surprises. While nasty in their own right, the skulls do not seem to hide anything nefarious. They are polished and neatly stacked up against the stone double doors to the north, preventing it from being easily opened. Arrian concludes that the doors haven't been opened in a long time, and that the creature didn't like what was behind them. Feren, Rowaine and Arrian start moving skulls aside.

Shalélu and Troll are struck by the level of detail on the dam model. The skulls along its downstream face, the building on top, all are intricately rendered in stone. It does not hold back actual water, however, and Troll notices that it does not show the damage the actual dam bears. Due to its positioning in the alcove it is awkward to see the rear (upstream) side of the dam. Troll attempts a better look using Spider Climb. From his new vantage point he can see the recess that Rowaine previously described. He cannot see the back wall of the recess, so reaches in and feels around inside with his hand. He can feel the back wall. To Troll, it feels like the dam is missing a block.

Troll casts Detects Magic and focuses on the model dam. It radiates strong transmutation dweomers. Troll wanders around the three chambers, looking for further magic. He senses something magical at the bottom of the central pool. He crouches down, touches the water and uses his Telekenesis ability. He latches onto something heavy and pulls it up to the surface. It's the military fork. His telekinetic ability cannot lift the object out of the water so he calls for assistance. Arrian covers his hand with a portion of his robe and pulls the weapon out of the pool, depositing it on the ground. The business end appears to be fashioned from an unusual material. Arrian then returns to help the others move skulls, while Troll returns to the enigmatic model dam.

Two minutes later the doorway is clear. Arrian walks over to Troll and the model dam while Feren examines the doors. They look like they pull open, and are featureless save two skulls in the centre at waist height. The skulls' jaws are open. Feren imagines having to hold onto the skulls' jaws to pull open the doors.

Looking at the dam, Arrian thinks the centre skull's jaws might open.

"Before we mess with an unknown magical device," Arrian says, "let's find out what's behind the doors first."

Feren presses his ear to the stone doors and hears a faint, pulsating hum. Arrian gingerly pulls the doors open using the skull jawbones. On the other side of the doors is a short corridor leading both left and right a short distance, terminating at both ends in portcullises. A small wheel is mounted in the wall beside each portcullis. The whole area is faintly lit by pulsing orange light emanating from two sets of circular runes in the floor beyond each portcullis. The circle laid out by the runes is around nine feet wide. The left circle contains a large desiccated corpse curled up in a fetal position, the circle to the right holds a pile of crimson ash.

Troll looks at the runes, identifying them as magical in origin, designed to imprison a being. His Detect Magic confirms that they are indeed magical. Arrian asks Rowaine to Detect Evil.

"The thing to the left is evil," she says quietly.

"What about to the right?" asks Troll.

"Nothing to the right."

Troll beckons Jakardros closer. "How long has that thing been here?" he asks, indicating the corpse.

Without entering, Jakardros looks at the ground, the doorframe, the portcullis. "I suspect it's been here for a very long time. No one has walked through here in dozens, possibly scores of years."

"OI!" Arrian yells suddenly, his voice echoing around and making everyone jump. There is no response from either corridor.

"Maybe they are imprisoned here as a power source for the dam," Arrian says.

"I don't like it if that's right, " Troll replies. "They're evil creatures, but it's still wrong."

"The whole aesthetic of this dam hasn't been terribly pleasant," Arrian says. "Let's go back to the jaw on the skull. Everyone be ready to sprint upstairs!"

Troll starts scribing the runes while the others move to the model dam. Arrian tries to manipulate the centre skull's jaw. It moves downwards, opening up. He listens…

"Hey!" yells Troll, making Arrian jump. The jaw snaps shut. "What did you just do?" Troll asks.

"Opened the jaw on the model dam's centre skull," Arrian hisses back. "Why?"

"The runes - they just paused!"

Arrian runs to the corridor. The runes look the same to him.

"What happened?" Arrian asks.

"They stuttered," says Troll.

"Like a power drain?" Arrian heads out of the corridor. The water in the central pool looks the same. Feren checks the other two pools, but does not notice any change. Arrian checks the steps leading into the western pool. "You are meant to go into this water," he thinks to himself.

"Let's head to the top of the dam and have a look. Moving the model dam's skull may have done something to the actual dam."

The party climb the stairs and leave the building, enduring the pelting rain. The skulls below the northern edge appear the same. No ogres or any other enemies are in sight.

Safe for the moment and with light failing, the group decide to camp in the skull building. Rowaine Detects Evil about the building first and gives it the all-clear. Watches are posted and the night passes.

The following morning after food, prayer, study and limbering-up is complete, the party venture back down the stairway into the dam. Arrian checks the corpse in the left corridor. It is still there. Arrian recalls his brief training on otherworldly beings. He is sure this creature is a devil of some kind. Now, hang on… Is it his imagination, or is the beast lying in a slightly different position this morning? Surely not. He casts his prepared Comprehend Languages spell and looks at the runes, but cannot make any more sense of them.

"Rowaine," asks Troll, "can you give the pools a sweep? I'm thinking of having a closer look."

Rowaine spends a minute walking around each pool's edge. "I sense no evil," she says.

"Good." Troll starts disrobing.

"Mind you," adds Rowaine, averting her eyes, "barracuda aren't evil…"

"Barracuda aren't river fish, either," Shalélu says wryly.

Troll lights a sunrod, summons a Floating Disc and descends the stairs leading into the western pool. He makes use of his new Water Breathing ability and disappears under the algae-covered surface. He immediately notices a five-foot wide circular submerged tunnel roughly half way up the pool's east wall. Troll swims through, finding himself in the central pool. He looks around. The bottom is covered with bones and remains. Another five-foot wide horizontal chute exits the east wall. Troll follows it to the east pool, fighting against a current to do so.

"So that confirms how that thing was moving around," Troll thinks. The eastern pool is considerably clearer than the other two. He looks around for the source of the current and spies a three-foot circular hole in the floor to the south. He can feel the ingress of water as he approaches it. The hole descends a good twenty feet. Troll swims to the surface and pulls himself out of the water. The others hear him and come to investigate. Troll tells the group what he has found so far.

"I'm gonna go back down and have a look down that hole," he says. "Gotta die some time."

Troll swims headfirst into the hole, battling against a current stronger than before. The chute descends some forty or fifty feet then turns level and continues southward. Thirty feet beyond, the tunnel turns west for about twenty feet, ending in a wall of stone. He puts his fingers up against the stone edges, feeling water squirting in under a fair amount of pressure. This close it is quite noticeable, but less than two feet away it is barely noticeable and it certainly doesn't resemble the current he battled earlier. He flips around and heads back, allowing the water to carry him back up. He exits the pool, seeing his party awaiting anxiously. He describes the chute.

"Water is making its way into this chamber, keeping the easternmost pool clearer," he concludes. "I wondered whether it joined the Storval Deep, but it can't - at least not directly. If it did, it would flood this chamber."

"So if that's where it is getting in," says Arrian, "where is it getting out?"

"Hang on…"

Troll drops back into the water and scouts out the walls of the pools. All three are about fifteen feet deep. He finds a three-foot hole in the north wall of the centre pool, fully submerged, about twelve feet above the bottom. It heads north on a slight decline and a current indicates water is draining away through it. Troll puts his sunrod in the hole and lets go. It is dragged down and disappears abruptly after ten or fifteen seconds, twenty ot thirty feet away. He also notices something odd about the stairs in the western pool. All are made of similar stone to the pool walls, save the bottom step, which is metallic.

"Found how the water's getting out," Troll says as he breaks the surface. "A chute in the centre pool. Someone care to open that skull jaw while I watch it?"

Arrian moves to the model and Feren kees an eye on the twin rune cirles. Troll drops back underwater and positions himself to the left of the hole. Arrian opens the model dam's skull jaw. The runes again hiccup, but nothing else appreciably happens. Arrian asks Rowaine to observe the actual dam while he tries again. Rowaine mounts up and disappears through the north wall. Arrian counts to twenty, then pushes down on the jaw again. Feren confirms the runes stuttering, Troll confirms that nothing has happened below. A minute later Rowaine and Harley return. Rowaine dismounts and Harley shakes herself dry.

"Couldn't see anything," the paladin says, wet through.

Troll pulls himself out of the pool and dries off. Arrian checks the other model skulls. Only the centre one moves.

"What is this place?" asks Arian, perplexed. "This must be some sort of floodgate control, but I don't know how to make it work. Maybe it's broken."

The party venture upstairs and throughly search the building, in case they missed something significant. While they do not find anything resembling a floodgate control, they do find a hoard of goods under a loose flagstone in the western chamber. There is an emerald, a bent gold comb that looks like a many-legged reptile, and a pair of pink lacy gloves. Troll determines that the gloves bear magic, and Identifies them as Gloves of Arrow Snaring. He also Identifies Wet Papa Grazuul's weapon: a +1 vicious adamantine military fork. Still none the wiser regarding the dam, they descend the flights of stairs to Grazuul's lair.

Feren has a look at the model, even climbing over to see its rear side. He can barely fit his head into the small gap between the dam and the alcove wall. He prods around with his sunrod - tink tink… The alcove definitely has a back.

"Can someone flick the switch while I have a look in here?" he asks. Arrian does so, noting that he can see the sunrod's light through the skull's jaws. There is a tube behind the skull that goes halfway through the width of the dam, then opens into the larger cavity that Feren is investigating. If the model is an accurate replica of the dam, then that means there is a large tube beneath their feet. Troll thinks about the small submerged shaft he swam through earlier, but cannot find evidence of it on the model.

Both Troll and Feren now believe they have found the floodgate, but how do they make it open?


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