Fernac explained to the three newcomers that a traveling prophet named Gerilynn had several months ago led an expedition to the ruins of an old moathouse a few leagues away and, unlike several previous expeditions, had driven out the resident evil who lived there. “Now it’s for us to glide in and sweep up the cult’s treasure before someone else jacks it.” Fernac convinced Gerilynn that another successful expedition would further improve the stature of her nascent sect. She agreed. And Bucko, a local farm hand with a keen in
terest in Gerilynn and perhaps her Faith asked to join the group.
The party followed the well-known path from Hommelet to the Moathouse. Before crossing the pile of rubble that led across the muddy moat and into the courtyard Gerilynn warned the others that giant frogs lived in the moat and vaguely remembered that she, Cinderblock and Gruber had discovered another exit, but couldn’t remember how to find it. The party circled and noticed a breach in the rear of the moathouse itself. The moat itself looked deep but there were a sufficient number of stepping stones that they decided to cross there.
Still concerned about the frogs as well as anything that might be lurking inside, Gerilynn summoned a cloak of silence over herself and her companions. One at a time, they crossed noiselessly over the stones and into the gloom of the moathouse. After passing through two large, ruined galleries, the party came upon a dark hole. Philch argued that the lower hanging fruit had already been picked, and convinced the others that they should tie a rope and climb into the hole to see what lay below.
Gerilynn shared the maps that her literate friend Cinderblock had drawn and these further convinced the party, that greater rewards required greater risks. Philch led the way and Philomena phollowed. (Sorry.)
At the bottom of the hole, they found a stinking mess and, in kicking it around, a nest of giant centipedes. The party repelled the beasties with their daggers and torches, but not before one or two had crawled into Philch’s boot stinging him on the foot and leg. The pain was enough that they nearly called off the expedition and returned to Hommelet immediately, but Gerilynn tried a healing poultice that neutralized or numbed the poison enough that Philch thought he could carry on. Exploring a little more cautiously, the party found two storerooms filled with weapons, armor, and a cask of decent brandy. Pressing on, the party discovered a torture chamber, jail cells, and several more empty galleries. Through careful study of Gerilynn’s map and tapping on the walls, Philch discovered a large block that could be pushed aside, permitting egress to a secret passage, and then a staircase spiraling down at least 50 feet.
The party descended eagerly, certain that they had discovered something previous explorers had overlooked. At the bottom they found a solid, heavy, and locked door. Philch, who had reluctantly passed on the set of unaffordable lockpicks offered him by Hommelet’s traders, started to pry the door open with his crowbar. When the oak splintered, a rush of wind plunged the party into darkness. Phoebe was good with tinder and phlint and before anyone could panic, she soon had a new torch burning.
Philch managed to get the door opened completely. Behind it there as a small alcove and another door—this one much less solid-looking, and with a ring in the center. Gerilynn pulled the ring to open it. The door didn’t open. Instead there was loud grating sound coming from above. Philomena pulled Gerilynn out of the alcove. The party watch. Indeed, a ceiling block was falling into the alcove, but its descent was much hindered by friction. The danger of being instantly crushed seemed less likely and thus less weighty than the risk of losing their opportunity to get beyond this second door. Phoebe ran in and put her shoulder to it and found that it opened outwards. Furthermore, opening it, seemed to halt the fall of the ceiling block.
The party passed through a rough-hewn passage—much different than anything seen above in the dungeons of the moathouse, and stepped into a large cavern. Here, two shaggy white creatures bearing enormous swords rushed to attack them. Philch flung a spear and then charged with his sword. He was joined by Gerilynn, Bucko, and Phobe while Philomena hid herself in a dark corner and Fernac guarded the retreat route. Fearsome, but lacking finesse, the monsters were stabbed again and again while their own heavy blades clanged against the cavern walls. Philomena circled for a surprise attack, but her dagger got entangled in the monsters matted fur without reaching its body. The monster turned on her and Philch charged to her defense. He was hit by two solid blows and crumpled to the ground. Here Fernac loosed two arrows in quick succession to kill this monster while Phoebe slew the other with her war hammer. Philch was alive, but badly wounded. Bucko, too, had sustained serious wounds. Gerilynn ministered to them, and helped them regain their feet and their breath, but it was obvious to all that they must return to daylight and civilization.
As the party reached the top of the spiral staircase, the party heard footsteps and voices. The party stopped and listened. Nothing. After waiting a few minutes, breath hushed and weapons ready, the party continued to the top of the stairs. They passed through empty galleries and reached the storeroom where Philch had been bit by centipedes. Philch and Bucko did not have the strength to climb out of the hole under their own power and so the party created harnesses to hoist them out.
The party moved quickly through the ground level of the moathouse to the breach and the stepping stones to cross the moat . . .
Sadly, Philch fell in and the splash attracted the frogs attention. Fernac shot arrows at the bulbous eyes breaking the surface, but Philch only came up for an instant before being sucked under for good. Another frog broke the surface just long enough to shoot a long sticky tongue and grab Bucko as he teetered on the bank. The rest of the party made it across safely and trudged back to Hommelet in silence.
a cloak hangs on a peg at the bottom of some stairs leading up, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.