Down among the dead men

My companions were feeling somewhat fragile after the fight, so we decided to have a rest soon.  Resting in the chamber with the well seemed ill-advised though, as people might come down wanting some water, so we decided to look and see if we could find somewhere off the beaten track.  We threw the bodies down the well and I performed mighty feats of magic to get rid of the most egregious blood stains.  Obviously anyone coming in might be confused by the lack of the normal denizens of the chamber, but hopefully our intrusion would not be the obvious first explanation that would come to their minds.

Looking for a place to rest, we listened at and then opened the northern door.  Beyond was a short corridor with a crossroads, ending in a bronze door (no signs of rot).  We advanced to the cross-roads, and seeing nothing of interest down either branch, decided to have a short breather here.  After our rest, we advanced to the bronze door and entered the chamber beyond.  This proved to be a vast crypt, with decaying bodies propped in niches around the wall and a huge tomb at the eastern end.  As we entered the room, six of the corpses shuffled forward and attacked us, but were swiftly dispatched.  Having finished them off, we advanced on the tomb and were surprised to read the inscription on it, which announced that this was the tomb of Samular Caradoon.  We had always just assumed that he would be buried at Summit Hall.  Close investigation showed us that the lid had been recently moved, so we decided to open it up ourselves, heedless of the obvious possibilities that opening long-sealed tombs hold.  Obviously this one wasn’t long sealed, given it had been recently opened, but possibly that just increases the risks.  Anyway, heedless, as I said, of the obvious risks, and trusting in our own valour, we opened the tomb to find, not some undead monstrosity, or even the ancient corpse of Samular, but instead a much more recently dead knight of the Order of Samular.  This sparked a recollection in my mind, and I remembered that the delegation that we were trying to find had been escorting the body of a knight of the Order of Samular – obviously this was the self-same corpse.

We, however, had no wish to encumber ourselves with a corpse for the exploration of the rest of the monastery, so opted to leave him there while we continued to explore.  There was another bronze door on the south door, but this proved as impossible to open as the one on the floor above, and a brief fiddling with the maps showed that indeed they seemed to be in line with each other – possibly they opened into a staircase that connected one with the other.  I was still unwilling to risk one of the Knock spells from the scroll we had been given, since there was a good chance it it might fail and I wanted to retain at least one of them to transcribe into by spellbook at some time in the future.  For that reason we instead left through the door on the western wall.  This opened into another shortish corridor, which ended in an iron door.  We listened at this, and heard something beyond, so cautiously opened the door.

The chamber beyond was a large cavern with a floor partially of red earth.  The western end was barred off as a cell, with a stout iron door giving access through the bars, and a door on the far side.  Within the cage, fortunately, there was a hideous monster looking like a cross between an ape and a beetle, and with four eyes, one pair of which had been gouged out.  This creature started howling and crashing at the bars as it tried to get to us.  It was making a lot of noise, so we decided not to linger.  Before we left though, I sent Blinky up the broad set of steps to the south.  She reported that these led up into a large temple.

After this, we went back through the crypt and wandered through a maze of corridors which led around the original room with the well.  There were many branches and dead-ends – most of which showed evidence of recent working – it looked like the earth cultists were excavating the basement actively.  Finally we found three rooms that were filled with prisoners, who told us that they had been captured by the earth cult and set to work excavating for the earth cultists.  Among their number (seventeen it turned out) was a dwarf who introduced himself as Bruldenthar.  I remembered this name as being that of one of the emissaries from the north – a dwarven sage.  He confirmed that he was and proceeded to tell us much of the fate of the delegation (which I had initially failed to recall due to the many adventures I had partaken in recently, but then recalled as he mentioned them) – they were attacked by earth cultists and most guards were killed.  Some river pirates ferried them over the Dessarin river and were paid with his books. Later, the air cult attacked and stole away one of the prisoners.  He was put to work in the mines, and his other two companions had been taken down below to the ancient dwarven city of Tyar-Besil.  He also warned us that there were grey dwarves around who helped the cultists. He was relieved when I told him that we had recovered his books for him, and indeed had mercilessly slaughtered the river pirates and the air cult..

Having liberated the prisoners, we took them through the well-room and into the crypt, thinking of this as being the safest room in the complex, despite its macabre inhabitants (and although the earth cultists had obviously been there in order to place the dead knight).  At this point, it seemed likely to us that behind the unopenable doors probably lurked Samular’s brother Renwick Caradoon, who we had been told had transformed himself into a lich rather than die.  It would seem likely that he had retreated to the most decrepit part of the monastery and sealed himself in with Arcane Locks.  I used one of the Knock spells on the scroll to open the door, which it did.  We advanced up the stairs beyond.  Sat in a large laboratory at the top of the stairs was an ancient and desiccated corpse, whose eyes glowed with a keen blue light.  The sight was eerie and terrifying, but foreknowledge and expectation allowed us to master our fear.  Renwick was initially brusque and ordered us out, but I begged him to forgive our intrusion and mentioned our visit to the Knights of Samular at Summit Hall. This reminded him of his love for his brother and he forgot about compelling us to leave.  I established that he disliked the earth cultists occupying his monastery and had created a border with them that they did not dare cross, but would also be happy if they were removed.  He offered us a few ‘magical trinkets’, as he put it, if we would remove them, and also revealed that there was a stairway down to Tyar-Besil in the north-west corner of the basement – it seemed likely that this might be behind the door behind the monstrosity in the earth chamber. He did warn us that we might find the Earth Temple to be something of a challenge… With that he dismissed us and we promised to not disturb him again.  Relieved to have survived the encounter with so mighty and terrifying an interlocutor, we returned to the crypt to plan our next moves.