We took some time to bring the new halfling up to speed. He had now recalled that his name is Sanfire and denies any connection with the wizard Invar. I’m not sure if I believe that, where else would he have come from? If a wizard dies from a lightning bolt, and physically reverts to their childhood, do they lose their memory of being a wizard? Or of being an adult at all? Wizards are.. strange.
The door to the south was the only remaining unopened door nearby, and it remained stubbornly closed. We tried many possible passwords while wearing the robes, the opal choker, and the necklace. (Actually it was mostly Sanfire trying all of the jewelry on. I counted the stones before and after he handled them!) None of them helped, and neither did the key we found on the body in the vat.
We discussed trying to take the magical goblet from the gurgling monster, but decided against it. We did explore the staircase leading below the gurgling monster room a little further. Sanfire did, actually, since he sees in the dark better than we do. (Does that mean Invar also did? Hmm.). He reported a room filled with 4 metal containers,that smelled of strong acid, and made digestive noises. He then refused to go back down. Smarter than he looks. (Of course, he looks like a sheep, thanks to flowing, curly white hair). Maybe smarter than Invar, too, which is a higher bar. Hmm.
We moved further north, giving Sanfire a four of the weirder parts of the Grotto. When we looked again at the long room with eight wall niches, I noticed that each niche had (in addition to piles of ash) a few straight pieces of wood that had been smashed and burned. I guessed these might once have been picture frames, perhaps even portraits.
While we conducted this investigation, Stria (who was standing guard) noticed a strange, disembodied hand pointing northwest. The direction appeared to be directly towards the troglodyte lair with the puzzle box. The hand then promptly disappeared. Ahnjela wondered if it was perhaps the Prismatist trying to encourage us to return to the troglodytes? Perhaps she had been captured? We resolved to explore the possibility soon, but first to check down the nearby stairs since we were already here.
Sanfire explored first on his own. He certainly has courage! The staircase leads to a corridor of doors and debris, both stone and crushed bone; all the doors save one were slightly ajar. Two doors immediately at the bottom of the stairs, north and south, several more further east. From one to the east Sanfire reported a sound like cloth rubbing against stone. We took much greater care to be quiet after that.
Of all the doors, the first one to the south was the most interesting. The door and room were neat and clean and free of debris. The room itself was barely large enough to contain a sarcophagus, completely unmarked and undamaged. Nothing on the door or the sarcophagus itself indicated who might be buried here. Sanfire thought the undamaged condition of the room hinted at an undisturbed treasure within. I thought it hinted at an undisturbed undead within. We were both right…
Taking care to be quiet, we positioned ourselves to extract the (still hypothetical) treasure. Ahnjela and Stria prepared to lift the lid. I held a torch in one hand and Denara’s golden balancing scales in the other (still chained to my body by a special harness – never again will I allow myself to be parted from her soul-weights and holy measure!). Sanfire kept watch down the corridor in case we attracted more attention.
Carefully the ladies lifted the lid from the sarcophagus and set it aside. Within lay a dessicated, mummified corpse wearing a crown of smokey quartz. It had brilliant green eyes, literally burning with magical flame as they stared up at us. The creature began to rise … But I must state quite firmly that none of us were surprised, for I had duly warned everyone that this sarcophagus likely contained a dangerous undead!
I began a prayer to Denara, fixing my eyes upon the crown. Surely such a thing would go far towards funding her new temple! Sanfire slipped around behind it and threw his axe – a solid strike but the creature laughed it off, unharmed!
The thing lurched towards Stria, hands outstretched for her neck, and and it began to choke the life from her. My prayers to Denara finished, and I felt her holy power flowing through me as I commanded the filthy thing to die and stay dead, or flee the righteous glory of the Goddess, for in her wisdom she lays a tax even upon death itself!
Alas at the last moment I realized my mistake. The creature was too strong for my prayers alone to return it to the grave. If they were instead only strong enough to force it to flee, the crown and it’s promise of golden grace would go with it!
I choked, and the creature snarled and hissed as it strangled my friend.
Ahnjela advanced to try to free Stria from it’s grasp. Sanfire leaped at the thing, knowing his weapons would not hurt it, but trying to pull the crown from its head. I know not whether he felt that would deactivate the creature, or simply wanted to secure wealth from the encounter. To be honest I would bless either course of action. But he missed. Fearing the worst for my friend, i was already intoning a prayer for healing. Stria frantically fought to free herself, but to no avail, even with Ahnjela’s help. She gasped out a promise to pay double the rates for healing. Denara heard her, checked her credit score, and approved the loan! My hands glowed with healing energy, and with that newfound strength Stria broke free of the grasp from beyond the grave and regained her health.
Still, nothing we had done so far had hurt the thing in the slightest. Hoping to try fire, I threw a flask of oil at the mummy, coating it in flammable liquid. At the same time, Sanfire leaped at it again, this time landing on the mummy’s greased and oil-slick shoulders. He waved his arms wildly about, yelling the battle-cry of his people, an obscure sect of rodeo-halflings: “yeehaw!”. Somehow he kept his grip, and grabbed for the crown! Only to regret it a moment later when Stria’s torch followed my flask of oil, and the mummy went up in flames. Sanfire lasted 7 seconds riding bareback on a greased flaming mummy. Somewhere, that is surely a record worthy of fame and fortune…
But the flames did nothing either. At least not to the mummy. Sanfire dropped to the ground without his prize.
We had one chance left. With Stria out of immediate danger, Ahnjela drew her blade Faerloch and struck! The blade of the five-eyed frog, her gift from the Frog Prince, struck true, and the thing’s screech of pain and fury split the air. Even as the creature burned, it reached for Ahnjela’s throat with murder in it’s flaming eyes. Ahnjela calmly stood her ground and struck once more, sending the creature back to it’s grave.
Metaphorically, of course. It was actually at least five feet from it’s grave and in several pieces besides, as Ahnjela sliced it’s legs off at the knees, muttering “just in case!” As she did so. I resolved to ask her to elaborate on the source of that particular life lesson later. And did I mention it was still on fire, and old dead burning meat is a truly foul odor?
Sanfire grabbed for the crown again, saving it from the fire, and we made the decision to return to Eastdale with our gains. With the crown and the necklace from the upside-down vat man, we could live comfortably for some time, and I could contribute to Denara’s temple as well. Stria paid her debt as promised, and promptly too.
I must remember to ask Denara’s wisdom regarding whether any of our collection has magical properties before we attempt to sell them. And with Invar gone, perhaps the elf Landon would be willing to examine the strange markings on the four plinths we found near the vats of death.
Having exhausted our options in the area beyond the robe hallway, we again tried the door with the fist symbol, since we had a medallion and a key. Nothing worked, no matter what words or phrases, or combination of robe, medallion, and choker. The door said “Submit to the Faceless One’s will. What remains after utter acquiescence?” It’s a clue, and we swore we’d seen something about that somewhere else, but nobody could remember what or where. We discussed what else to explore. Sanfire offered to go swimming so we could check behind the waterfall. We tied a rope to him after he had eaten some of the stuff the monkeys eat to breathe underwater. He came back with a pouch of money. Having success with that, he offered to next try the stream, to see if it connected to the stream up north. Nothing came of that, since we didn’t have enough rope, but he seemed to think we could swim that way, we just wouldn’t be able to come back this way. The monkeys were not best pleased with Sanfire’s presence in “their” waters, and kept throwing shit at him. Luckily, they weren’t good at aiming.
There were some areas with stairs that hadn’t been explored yet, so we went there next. The first set of stairs, Sanfire came running back up right away. He said there were urns down there making eating noises, and it smelled like burning acid. While exploring the gallery with alcoves that the next set of stairs was off of, I saw a blue glowing hand floating in the air, and it pointed towards the northwest, then vanished. I told the others about it, and wondered out loud if the Prismatist could do that, if she wanted us to find her. The alcoves had tiny animal bones amidst twisted and crushed wood, almost like picture frames. Someone thought rat bones in picture frames was art? Sanfire went down the next set of stairs. He said there was lots of debris and lots of doors cracked open. Behind one of the doors at the far end, he heard a sound of linen on stone. Everyone immediately thought mummy.
After peeking in the doors, we opted to explore one clean room right off the stairs with a sarcophagus in it. Sanfire watched the hallway, Oscar held the torch and prepared to try to turn whatever was inside, and Ahnjela and I quietly lifted the lid. There was a mummy in there, and it was still moving. Glowing green eyes glared up at us as it started to rise. It had a crown on its head, so it must have been someone important. We got out of the way, so it had room to run if Oscar’s prayers worked. The prayers did nothing, so this must have been someone very important and very powerful. It came straight for me, wrapping its skeletal hands around my neck and began strangling me. I couldn’t get away. Ahnjela tried to help, but I still wasn’t strong enough. Sanfire threw his ax at the mummy, but it didn’t affect it.
I was staring death in the green glowing undead eyes, but Oscar prayed for healing. I croaked that I’d pay double for healing, and apparently his goddess favored my background of transacting services for money, because strength flooded back. With Ahnjela’s help, I finally broke free. Ahnjela shoved me backwards out of the way. Oscar threw oil on the mummy. Sanfire, determined to get that crown, made a leap onto the mummy’s shoulders. He grabbed for the crown, but the mummy pulled the crown back down on its head. Ahnjela drew her frog sword, and hit the mummy, and her sword did damage it. I lit a torch from Oscar’s torch, and threw it, lighting the mummy on fire. Fire didn’t do a damned thing. Sanfire dropped off the mummy so he didn’t get burned. Ahnjela hit it again with her sword, and it went down. Sanfire quickly bagged the crown, and we headed back up the stairs to relative safety. I paid Oscar for the healing, double, as I’d promised his goddess. It’s best to keep one’s promises to a god. We’ll bring our loot back to town, and I’ll probably take a break for a while.