Company of Chaos - All Around Golarion


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    Company of Chaos - All Around Golarion

    So, this Company of Chaos of mine (family and friends so we play a lot) has this totally crazy idea of playing every AP and as many modules (Paizo and others) with the SAME set of characters. No idea how far we will get but the first few sessions were so much fun and different I was volunteered to post about it.

    We do not use a level system but go by what characters actually learn so some things may look off. Otherwise the progression would be too quick.



    Cast:

    Cajun - Half-orc half-halfling Alchemist, quite young at the start of all this and with the goal to make his weird appearance more normal. Has a tendency to liberate items from owners he thinks unworthy of them. Blacksmith apprentice.

    Cajun is tall as an orc and has the shoulders and upper torso of one, but he lacks the facial features, and his lower alf seems slim as that of a halfling, too. If he does not shave or get rid of it otherwise, he hs lots of dark body hair, but his head and facial hair is dirt blond. His skin is light in winter and dark in summer. Hazel brown eyes with a slight hint of red in the white make him appear angry, although he hardly shows any temper people tend to be afraid of him if they do not know him.

    Mook – Gnome Oracle of Nature, with the homebrew oracle curse to stutter unless she rhymes.

    Dark skinned gnome with probably some human ancstory far far back. Pitch black, curly hair, piercing blue eyes and a smile to die for. Best friend of Zaza.

    Dadawin – Her bonded wolf mount with a limp.

    Zaza -.Halfling rogue, Carun's older half sister. Overly protective of him. Has the tendency to liberate items she thinks worthy of her ownership. Which is basically everything valuable.

    Zaza has red blond hair which can glow like fire in the right light. Her eyes, however, are hazel. Her skin is usually light brown, but in winter when she isn't out and about her skin may be almost white.

    Samin – Three-Quarter-Elf (as he is quick to point out if someone thinks of him as a half elf). Double bloodline sorcerer with a talent for wizard, with seemingly no limit to spells. Very capable in learning spells. A lot less capable of knowing when to use them. Cajun's best friend. Allergic to feathers.

    He's thin as a rake and moves awkward, constantly pushing his black dyed hair out of his face. He has died it to be able to pass as Rodawin's real son when needed – the only time he does want people to think he's a half-elf. His eyes have a pupleish hue.

    Wilbur – his accidental Hawk familiar. Cause for much sneezing.

    Rodawin Teltz – Human bard with Varisian roots, the tendency to be overly enthusiastic and the blessing or curse to occasionally spread Murphy fields (everything that can will go wrong for others). Adoptive father of Samin. Voice of an angel.

    Teltz has pitch black hair and cold appearing blue and grey eyes. He usually sits a bit slumped over and tries to pass as less than he is unless he needs to use his skills or make people do what he wants.

    Bjön –Dwarf paladin of Desna, happens to be night blind. He travels to free the world from evil, but has an interestingly liberal definition of evil. Pathfinder.

    He's got light red-blond hair but his beard grows a reddish brown. He usually keeps his hair -. Or his beard, if really needed - trimmed to almost nothing as to not get too many stares about it.
    Last edited by Lwaxy; Saturday, 31st December, 2011 at 07:04 PM.
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    Traditions, the bane of the youth. At least that was what Zaza was thinking when she, her brother, her best friend and his best friend had been volunteered to undertake the oh so traditional Quest for the Everflame. They all knew it was just a way to try and set them straight. The 4 of them had caused some mischief lately; particularly some items had vanished and a shed had burned down and while nothing could be proven, the Kassen folks knew who was behind it all. No doubt they thought that going on this fake adventure together would make them more responsible or something. All that it would achieve was to make the rest of the town's youth jealous. As if it was fun to travel in cold weather, or worse, camping outside. No, Zaza was a girl who liked her comforts.

    The same was true for Samin, who would always say he wouldn't leave town before he had a secure means (including the money) to travel to some place where he could study more. Which was whenever his sufficiently rich father, the town's current bard, would decide to leave. Considering Samin was living here for 4 years now, it might as well be never. Zaza had the feeling Samin's dad was hiding from something or someone and found the remote place of Kassen perfect for this purpose.

    Her half brother now, he was eager to undertake the adventure, however fake. It must be his orc blood. The curious mix of halfling and orc stood twice as high as she, but had the slender build of their mother. Despite the reason for his existence – an orc raid with lots of casualties – he was well enough liked in town, especially as he was already a good blacksmith and didn't mind helping people for free or for favors if they couldn't pay.

    Mook looked more than bored. The aspiring oracle of nature and her bonded wolf were out and about for days at a time. Of course, being in the open was normal for them.


    The bells atop the Temple of Erastil rang their midday song, echoing throughout the quiet town. As the peals begun to fade, the first of the townsfolk madse their way into the square, dressed in black, as if attending a funeral. They slowly filled the square, moving quietly across the cold, hard ground, their eyes downcast and mournful. After a few moments, a murmur passed through the crowd as it slowly parted to let Mayor Uptal through. He lead the way with a tarnished silver lantern. Behind him, an old pony dragged a cart laden with backpacks and supplies.

    Once he reached the center of the crowd, Mayor Uptal stopped and called out to the assembled townsfolk. “Once again the winter winds blow through the Fangwood, marking the end of another harvest. There are wolves in the woods, howling at our walls, and serpents in our shadows, waiting to strike. Just as it was one hundred and seventy-four years ago, when Kassen himself left these walls to protect us, so it is today. Where are the heroes? Where are the brave folk that will venture out to Kassen’s tomb and retrieve the flame to keep this community safe for another winter?”

    As if any of it mattered, Zaza thought. Silly tradition, silly fake drama. But as the others, she answered by stepping forward, mumbling something about honor and duty and accepting, then took the meager supplies. The mayor handed the dark lantern they would need to bring back the flame to Samin – no big surprise there – asking him to bring the fire back and all that.

    The mayor once again spoke to the townsfolk. “I present to you the brave heroes who will follow in Kassen’s footsteps to retrieve the Everflame! Some of them may not return, but I say to you that their sacrifice shall not be forgotten. Go, brave heroes, and do not return until you have the eternal fire.” With that, the mayor pointed to the south, the direction of Kassen’s tomb. The townsfolk begun waving goodbye with cold, solemn looks on most of their faces.

    "As if a-a-nything w-w-would h-h-happen," Mook mumbled almost inaudible, and Zaza couldn't help but snort. Cajun chuckled. Samin stared at the dark lantern and sighed. "Let's get this over with."

    As the group made their way out of town, a human figure shouldered a backpack and made to follow them. Teltz the bard tended to have premonitions, and he had a strong one now. Neither the 4 selected nor the rest of the town took any of this serious, it was mainly a distraction from everyday life. But he knew something would happen, and he would not leave his son or his friends to their inexperienced selves.

    About two hours later, their feet already hurting – well, except Mook's who was riding her wolf most of the time – something unexpected happened.

    The narrow path winds through the raking claws of the trees, now bereft of their leaves, which crunch loudly underfoot. Up ahead, a fallen tree trunk blocks the path. Suddenly a trio of snarling humanoids leaps up from behind the log, all greenish skin and fearsome tusks, bellowing vulgar challenges.

    Samin burst out laughing while Cajun's hands moved to the hammer he always carried. "Don't mind, it's an illusion. Wilbur is somewhere above and says Master Holgast is hiding in the trees west of us."

    Mook had trouble calmin her upset wolf down, but within seconds, they noticed the young wizard apprentice was right. They could see through the illusion now, and Mook's noce picked up smoke the scent of the tobacco the older wizard usually stuffed his pipe with. "Nice t-t-ry, at least they att-tt-empt to m-m-make it somew-w-what interesting."

    Zaza groaned. "More tiresome is more like it."

    Cajun looked disappointed. "I admit I was worried, I'm just not a good fighter, but you could have let us have some fun." He threw an accusing look at Samin.

    The three-quarter elf shrugged. "And waste more time? Let's hurry, I'm hungry and tired already."

    The rest of the day was spent complaining and comparing several townspeople to other beings. No one noticed the man still trailing them. Except the hawk, of course, but he had been told to notify of any possible danger. Teltz sure was no danger to them.

    "It is getting not only dark, but also colder," Zaza reminded them while limping along. She was sure there were blisters forming on her feet. Shouldn't we find a place to camp or something?"

    "Or so-so-something," Mook agreed. "I know a g-g-good s-spot not too far f-f-from here."

    "You actually sleep out here?" Cajun asked, surprised.

    "O-only once or t-twice," Mook replied. "When w-we w-were running with the w-wolf p-p-packs and mother." Her mother, a druid, tended to live a weird life like that.

    While the camping side proved sheltered by rocks and bushes, it was still not comfortable enough for Zaza or Samin. While Cajun was setting up the fire and prepared a meager meal from their few rations, the two of them tried every spot on the ground around for comfort but had to admit it was too hard everywhere. At least there was no need to set a watch. Dadawin the wolf would take care of that. The wolves howling in the distance held no worries for them – they were friends of Zaza after all – but the strange noises of the night scared the hell out of Zaza, and she had the feeling Samin was oly pretending not to care.

    None of them had set up a tent before. Twice did they have to pull Cajun out from under before Mook and Samin figured it all out. "I would think you knew how to do this in the first place," Cajun complained. Mook shook her head. "Mother and m-me do -not usually use t-tents. Nature provides everyth-th-thing." Cajun grunted. Once more he wondered how it was that this girl was his sister's best friend. For Zaza, even Kassen seemed to be too much of a hassle to live in. He always thought she would be most happy in a large city.

    The night would have gone fine, except for Zaza and Samin taking turns jumping up in their bedrolls, asking "What's that?" at one sound or the other until Mook felt like knocking them out. Cajun had taken care of the small bottle of brandy he had found in the backpacks earlier and was snoring badly, which didn't add to comfort.

    The morning found Samin and Zaza with pains all over thanks to the uncomfortable ground and Cajun with a hangover. Despite haviung an orc's appetite for spirits, he had a halfling's head for it. Luckily, breaking down a tent was easier than putting it up, and after a meager breakfast, they were on their way again.

    Taltz, who had made camp in a comfortable enough tree, kept following them.

    "I need something to drink," Cajun groaned a bit later. "All the waterskins are empty."

    "If you hadn't decided to drink all the alcohol you'd not be so thirsty," Samin repeated for what must be like the 20th time.

    "We'll b-be at Gray L-lake in a moment." Mook was pointing ahead. "M-more than e-e-enough water f-for everyone there."

    "I feel I can drink the whole lake," the half-orc moaned again.

    The trees begun to thin, revealing a field of short, green grass that lead to the shores of a wide, calm lake reflecting the overcast sky above. A dense fog hung over the center of the lake, obscuring the far side. Near the shore of the lake, a dark form was lying next to the water.

    "Now what do we have here?" Samin wrinkled his nose. "Looks like it's been decaying for a while."

    "De... what?" Cajun scratches his head.

    "R-r-rotting, he means." Mook threw a look at the corpse. "Th-that's been h-here last t-t-time mother passed this p-place, she m-mentioned an aba-ba-bandoned campsite s-somewhere close. Must h-have been go-gotten by the giant s-serpent in the l-lake."

    "Serpent??" Zaza and Cajun asked at the same time, jumping back from the shore.

    "Oh c-calm down, it's m-mostly harmless. It p-probably only def-fended itself. C-can you p-please fill my skin, t-too?" Mook grinned and handed it to Zaza. The halfling snorted and passed it on to Samin.

    "Yeah sure, endanger the wizard. The wizard probably has a spell for it. The wizard is probably indigestible." Samin filled the skin and his own and came back grumbling, ignoring the giggles of the others. "Why did your mother just leave the corpse?"

    "So n-nature c-can devour it. And why g-going through all the t-trouble of a b-burial, anyway?"

    "Devour?" Cajun looked confused again.

    "Eat," Zaza and Mook explained together. Luckily, the half-orc had a good enough memory and only needed each new word explained once.

    With water replenished, the 4 moved on, still unaware of being shadowed.

    The trail lead ever deeper into the Fangwood, through a twisting maze of trees and confusing ravines. As it topped a small rise, a broad valley spread out before it, the opposite side of which looked like a writhing serpent. Yet between the two was a steep hill sloping down into the valley. A cold rain started to fall, making the ground slick and treacherous.

    "How do we get down there?" With hurting feet, Samin struggled through the thick bushes. "That slope is rather steep." They had been walking for some more hours now, and the young wizard really wished he could escape the walking and the weather and sit at a nice warm fire, feet up and with a book to read, and he had mentioned the fact several times now.

    Mook got off her wolf and, walking next to him, had no trouble getting down the slope with only a few stones coming lose. "I'll s-send Dadawin b-back up. Hold o-on to h-him," she told Zaza before she took the long way down. "He'll g-get you d-down safely."

    With a bit more difficulty, Zaza slithered down the slope to join her gnome friend. Cajun, who rightfully deducted he was too tall to hold on to a wolf, was meawhile trying to walk down Some 10 minutes down the slope, he proved he could not. In a flurry of flying arms and legs and curses, he came tumbling down head over behind to finally land in a heap in front of the wolf, who in turn made a sound which sounded like a wolf version of utter amusement. "Ouch," Cajun grumled and sorted out his appendixes before getting up. "I hope getting up will prove easier. There must be an easier way into the valley."

    "Yeah th-there is," Mook said. "B-but it is a few hours on and a-anyway, we were t-t-told to fo-follow the map."

    "Since when do you care what we are told?" Cajun wondered.

    "Good p-point." As they wanted to move on while discussing this further, a shout from above reminded them of something. Samin was still up there. He was too tall to grab on to the wolf as well.

    "Can't you, like, fly down or something?" Cajun shouted up. "Your master must have taught you how!"

    "What?" The distance was too much for Samin to understand clearly. "Flatten the one ring with alabaster tomatoes?" Certainly not, but that was all he had heard. It took Cajun 3 attempts among bouts of laughter to get his point across.

    Yes, in theory, Samin could do a fly spell already, partly thanks to his hawk familiar. He had, after all a "sensational affinity to all things magical" according to everyone who knew what they were talking about. But he could not hold on to it for long, and right now, he could only do very few spells a day. But what was he saving them up for? After all, they just had to get in, get the flame out, and climb up again.

    The rest of the group saw him "waving at the air" as Cajun kept calling it, and a moment later he came flying down the slope, rather close to the ground. A wise precaution, as the spell already faded out half the way down, causing the aspiring magical wonder child to slowly but steadily slide down the rest of the way through some thickets and over uncomfortable stones. With a grimace, he allowed Cajun to help him up.

    "Well, at least you arrived down here with your head up," the young blacksmith grinned. Samin nodded, trying to ignore the scratches and bumps and his dirty pants.

    "Do you smell that?" Cajun asked as they walked on. "Like a dead animal rotting somewhere."

    A moment later the source of the scent became clear. An archway of stone was set into the side of a small hill at the bottom of the valley. Moss hadf overgrown many of the details, but one was still quite clear. The keystone of the arch was carved with a flame symbol with a stylized rune in the middle. Beyond the archwaywas a darkened tunnel that leads to a pair of massive wooden doors, one of which was slightly ajar.

    A pair of horses and a trio of ponies were lying slaughtered next to the archway, each corpse still tied to a post set into the ground nearby. A swarm of flies hung lazily in the air above them.

    "Ewww." Zaza covered her nose with her shirt. "A predator attack?"

    "L-looks like it." Mook had gone to check out the cadavers. "Th-there is a hu-humanoid ske-ske-skeleton here, too – w-weird, it could be the o-owner of the h-horses but then w-why is it a-already a ske-ske-skeleton?"

    "I know those horses!" Cajun blurted out after taking a good look at them. "And the ponies, too. They are from our town. I've done the hooves of all of them before."

    "What? Why would they be here?" Zaza wondered. "S-some m-more pranks for u-us to f-feel threatened, maybe?" Mook mused, looking around highly alert now. "W-wonder what w-went wrong? I can't th-th-think of a p-predator big enough to k-kill them, it w-was certainly n-not wolves, a-and they d-do not look l-like anything has f-f-feasted upon them."

    "What does your hawk see?" Zaza asked Samin, trying to push aside the sudden fear.

    "Nothing he thinks suspicious, but there's a rider coming this way." Samin pointed to the opposite end of the valley.
    My Story Hour campaigns. What are they up to this week?

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    "A stranger? Maybe we should ask for help. We need to inform the town, too." Always the practical mind, Cajun thought for a moment. "Maybe Wilbur can carry a message? We can hide and wait somewhere, not wise for us to go in there alone, if at all."

    "Wilbur is a hawk, not a pidgeon," Samin complained.

    "Maybe the r-riders of these h-horses and, from the l-looks of it, p-pack p-ponies are b-back home already." Mook pointed to empty saddle bags. "They are d-d-dead for at least a d-day, likely m-more, a-and if no one is w-waiting to s-see if we r-run into any p-p-pranks, which is unlikely a-after this happened, th-they should be at l-least close to home."

    "Why didn't they try to stop us and warn us, though?" Cajun shook his head. "If there is a dangerouns predator about..."

    "Maybe n-not. You f-f-forgot something." Mook pointed to the evidence. "The ske-ske-skeleton. I think I k-know why this is a ske-ske-skeleton and not a co-co-corpse."

    "Care to enlighten us?" Zaza didn't like the tendency of her friend to turn her discoveries into lectures or guessing games.

    "It was a ske-ske-skeleton attack. The wounds w-would fit..."

    Cajun burst out in laughter. "Undead? Here? There were no undead around for decades!"

    "Not that we know of," Samin corrected, looking worried. "Let's head back and get help."

    Right then, something came crashing down the slope with a loud curse and dropped hard to the ground. Whirling around, the group saw Samin's father in a heap of dust. "Ohh darn. Ouch. Hah, I knew something would happen and you would need my assistance," the bard exclaimed.



    A bit down the valley, a well armed short figure on a proud warhorse was approaching, following the increasing glow of his sapphire amulet. A heirloom of his father, the hero of many adventures, the new initiated Pathfinder and paladin Bjön was determined to rat out undead and other evils while exploring the world. And it looked as if one of his first steps was close by.




    "No one has come back to the village, we thought they would be watching you maneuvering fake traps," the bard explained to the young people. "If the mounts are dead, maybe they are, too, or at least need our assistance. We can't wait to get more help. As bad as this is, we should at least check out the entrance to the crypt." His eyes fell on his son. "You and Zaza should probably stay here while we..."

    "And have no one to protect us? We are just two, and have no idea how to survive out here if something happens to you either." Zaza's protest was so loud mook took a look around if any evil might have heard them.

    "I'm not leaving my sister outside," Cajun growled. "Nor my best friend."

    "You rather want them inside?" Teltz countered.

    "I want them safe. We should go," Cajun insisted, folding his arms. "What could a few of us do if there are really undead? Or anything else dangerous?" Then he frowned. "Why were you even following us? Do we look that incompetent not to be able to bring a simple flame back?"

    While they were arguing, Mook had followed her wolf to the entrance of the crypt and peaked through the doors. It was too dark to see much. Her low-light vision only let her see some bones close to the door, likely from more broken apart skeletons. "H-help me o-open the door, p-please," she said, eager to look for survivors.

    While Teltz still explained how it came he was here, they automatically did as Mook asked. Slowly they pushed at the entrance. As the heavy doors swiung open, the faint light from outside revealed a long chamber with risen platforms on either side. A faded painting of Kassen wason the far wall. The room appeared to be the site of a gruesome battle, with two bodies piled in the center and a number of skeletons scattered around. An echoing wail could be heard somewhere in the distance, beyond this foul chamber.

    "Oh my!" Zaza went all pale. "They are all dead!"

    Out of surprise, forgetting all care, Cajun stepped inside, sniffing for living beings. Unfortunately, that was about what 6 skeletons not yet shattered did as well. Surprisingly quick, the undead things were rising from the chaos inside. Without thinking – again – Cajun let out a battle cry, took his greataxe and hammer and went rotating in the middle of the room, hacking at everything. With a scream, Zaza and Mook took cover left and right to the exit. The wolf vanished somewhere inside. Samin threw himself on the ground. Teltz drew his rapier, thinking of assisting the half-orc,. but deducted that it would be unwise to step into the way of the flailing blacksmith.

    Some time later, Cajun noticed there were no more skeletons left to smash. Breathing heavily, he lowered his weapons, stumbling backwards over some bones into the middle of the room. Teltz was quick to follow him, grabbing a sunrod from his heavy backpack. In the pale light, them and the others soon could see the faces of two dead villagers. "Gerol and Vark," the bard said. "Friends of the mayor. They love to do the set ups for the Quest."

    "Don't grown men have anything better to do?" Zaza growled. "But there are 6 bedrolls."

    "So maybe there is a survivor." Teltz pointed to the back of the room. "I don't know who else came with them, but I intend to find him or her."

    Dad, you and your hero complex," Samin mumbled. "There might be more of those things."

    "Hah, and if!" Cajun looked all happy with himself. "I just took on 6 of those on my own. It can't be so hard. Maybe none of those wannabe pranksters was armed."

    The wolf came back down the stairs to the platforms and whined in a confirming way. "Nothing u-p there," Mook said. "E-except 2 doors, he says."

    Once more Zaza wished she could communicate with animals in such a way. "So can he tell us where the survivor went?"

    "That w-way," Mook said, pointing to the left.

    Not hesitating, the bard went up the short flight of stairs, followed by the wolf, Mook and Cajun. Samin sighed and looked at Zaza. "Wilbur says the rider he saw earlier is just outside," he called out. "Maybe we should wait?"

    "What? Rider? You didn't tell me." Teltz stopped short. From outside, they could hear the angry whicker of a horse, then someone heavy getting off from it. Steps came closer, then a deep friendly voice called out. "In the name of Desna, I'm here to bring down the abominations of the undead. Are you of a righteous mind, or do you plague the world with evil?"

    Oh dear," Teltz groaned, not sure if to be happy about the new arrival or not. "A paladin, if I have ever heard one."

    "A p-paladin? Of D-desna?" Mook's face brightened in the light of the sunrod. She had never met a paladin in her life, but heard only good about them. "W-we are u-p here, about to l-look for survivors."

    "Ah, yes." The paladin, an amulet on his chest spreading a silver light, took in the scenery. "Friends of yours?" A dwarf, they noticed, battleaxe in hand and wrapped in scale armor, a heavy shield at his side.

    "Friends of our mayor. Those young folks here were supposed to do a traditional quest but now it's all a mess," the bard replied, resigned to the fact that he would not get rid of the paladin. And in truth, they could use the help. "Well met, stranger." He proceeded to introduce them in a hurry.

    "Bjön," the paladin nodded as he came closer. He was surprisingly young for one owning an amulet like that. Yet he sure looked competent – at least more so than the bunch of youngsters. "My quest is to rid the world of undead where I find them. And other evils."

    "You'll n-never finish," Mook couldn't help saying.

    "No, but a paladin needs to have a goal, and that is mine. At least I'll never run out of work to do." The dwarf looked up at the bard. "Shall we?"

    Teltz pushed at the alrerady half opened door and they went into the room behind. This large chamber contained a maze of pillars that obscured the far side of the room. Next to the door was a pile of empty saddlebags and three brooms.

    "I can see, your people were preparing some fake adventure," Bjön deducted. "Little did they knew it would turn into something deadly for them."

    Again, there was a wailing, louder this time. Zaza aqueaked and barely controlled herself no to hide behind the paladin. "Do undead make such noises?" she whispered.

    "Or your survivor." The paladin went on, carefully looking for danger while doing so. Cajun went right past him though, trying to discern where the noise came from. He followed the next wail right, then left again to not end up in a dead end of the maze. A moment later, they could hear the sound of a wooden squeak and then the squeak of an orc. The noise of something heavy hitting something soft followed. "You are doing this for the first time, obviouslky," the paladin frowned, following the sound of the sprung trap.

    They found Cajun on top of several stacked pillows at the bottom of a simple trap door pit. Amazingly, he was unconscious and a large bump was forming where his head had hit the edge of the trap. "Unbelievable," Samin chuckled, not really worried. Cajun's head was hard. "He comes tumbling down the whole slope with only a few scratches, and then this harmless mock trap knocks him out?"

    "I c-can't wake him u-up!" Mook and the wolf, the latter licking Cajun's face, were down in the trap now.

    "Maybe we should leave him here and pick him up later," the dwarf suggested. "Bit of a hot head, no? Can be dangerous in here."

    "He d-dismantled 6 ske-ske-skeletons," Mook disagreed.

    "What's with the stutter?" Bjön frowned. "Ever tried to sing instead of talk? Helps most of the time.At least it did it for my brother."

    "I c-can't sing. I t-tried," Mook sighed.

    "Indeed," the bard agreed. "And none of us wants her to try again."

    The paladin considered this, then nodded. "Well, if he does not wake up, maybe his sister can stay with him until he does and then they can follow us."

    "Can't you just heal him? I thought paladins could do that," Samin asked.

    "Only a few times a day, and I'm afraid I already had to heal someone earlier today."

    "Well, we can't get a potion into him while he's not awake," Zaza sounded disappointed. "And a few potions for accidents is all they gave us."

    "W..wait with him here until h-he w-waked th-then give him the p-potion," Mook suggested. "Dadawin w-wil stay with you and lead you to u-us later. H-he can w-warn you of any danger t-too."

    Zaza wasn't happy with this, but wouldn't leave her brother either. So she nodded, and when the others moved on, she carefully, closed the trap door above them so no evil would find them easily.


    Not too long later, the rest of the unlikely group found an exist south of the room. The wailing seemed to come from behind. The door was locked. Attempts by the paladin to push it open were met with too much resistance, and the bard's attempt to disable it didn't go well either. "What now?" Samin asked.

    "You are a wizard, right? Don't you have a knock spell? There must be some way to let the 4 of you through or your whole quest would be pointless." The paladin looked around to see if there was anything else to open the door with.

    "Sorry," Samin sighed. "That's one spell I was never interested in. I'll get to that when we get home."

    "Great. Looks like we'll need to go back to the entrance and take the other door then," the bard growled. "I can't do that either."

    After a bit of discussion, they did just that. On their way back, they shouted to the two under the trap door about the change of plans, and the wolf howled an answer.

    Under the trap door, Zaza had just fainted from panic as she heard approaching steps, not thinking that it could be the party returning and not noticing the lack of the wolf's reactions. So the wolf was the only one who heard them.
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    The door to the room right side of the entrance chamber opened without problem.

    In the center of this room was a large pool of clear water, fed by a fountain on the wall above it. The fountain had a stone statue of a weeping maiden holding the slain body of Kassen, but his head had been broken off and was nowhere to be seen. A voice boomed out from the darkness, saying, “Magic is the key.” The voice slowly faded, leaving a dreadful silence.

    "So, w-what n-now?" Mook felt increasinly nervous without her wolf and without open air around her.

    "Ah., how nice. A riddle." The paladin went to the pool and looked inside. "And I think I got it – we need to find the right key. Probably with magic."

    "Genius," Teltz mumbled so only Mook and Samin could hear. Loud he said "I can do a detect, but I'm no good at swimming." He looked at Mook, knowing Samin to be unable to swim with a sunrod and knowing the gnome to be very agile in water. Mook just stared back. "H-how do you th-think I'll k-k-know the right k-key? T-to many for me to r-remember wh-whatever you t-tell me."

    "Can you do a detect?" Bjön asked of Samin.

    "Sure but I'm not too good at diving, either."

    "Well, then, take off your clothes and you hold on to her, you can carry the sunrod and you'll direct her. You can hold your breath, yes?"

    Samin thought about it, then he nodded to the paladin. He had no issues taking his clothes off in front of his friends, so he started undressing and so did Mook. The water was cold, and he shivered uncomfortably, while the gnome was used to cold water.

    With a lot of gestures and losing the sun rod twice, Samin was able to locate the key and they retrieved their price. Samin gasped for air, shivering like mad, while Mook handed the key to the bard, seemingly unaffected. Teltz took the key then grabbed a rug from his backpack to dry of his son. "Are you ok" he worried.

    "Pfft, grrrck.." It seemed to mean yes, so he helped Samin into his clothes and when the three-quarter Elf and the gnome were dressed, they looked around the rest of the room. Two doors were leading out of it to the south, the left one was locked. The other opened, with a protesting squeak they thought could be heard in all the crypt, to a long corridor flanked by a row of human statues, set into alcoves on each side. The statues looked like Kassen, and each one helds a longsword out in front of it. The blades of roughly half the statues were wrapped in leather padding. Some burned down torches were there, too, and the room faintly smelled like lamp oil.

    "What now?" The bard peered into the corridor, but the sun rod only illuminated part of it. "You dwarfs can see in the dark, no?"

    "Ah... well, usually, but I'm night blind." It seemed the paladin blushed. "A fault of my family."

    "Why are the swords of the statues wrapped?" Samin asked. "Did our townfolks do that?"

    "Looks like it. By my guess, it's that sort of trap where the statues try to hack at you. They can't with the leather wraps." The paladin had seen such before, it seemed.

    "That w-will s-s-still hurt!" Mook growled.

    "Well, there must be a trigger." Bjön sounded almost cheerful. "We just have to avoid it. I suggest the gnome hugs the walls and tries to find it, she is lightest."

    Mook harrumped. This would be something right in Zaza's pocket, would she be here. The little halfling was much better at avoiding traps, as some foray into some ruins in their past had shown. She half hoped to see her friend and her brother come through the door to the pool room, but of course that was not happening. "A-alright," she whispered. "G-give me a sun rod." They had enough of those to last a while, she hoped. To be able to maneuver better, she left her backpack behind

    With her own sun rod, she pressed herself to the wall, trying to half vanish into the alcoves. She didn't look very agile doing so, but she managed to get half down the corridor when she saw it. "T-there i-is a weird l-looking flor t-tile."

    "A pressure plate, most likely." The paladin's voice was still cheerful. "Drop something heavy on it."

    "L-like what? I-I didn't b-bring anything."

    "Err yeah, should have thought of that," Bjön admitted.

    Teltz emptied out her backpack and added the contents to his and Samin's. "I'll get some rubble," he announced and vanished to outside.



    The halfling rogue so badly missed by her friend was shaken awake just then. The face of her brother appeared above her in the pale light of their own sun rod. "Are you ok? What happened? My head hurts."

    In a few words and while handing him a Cure potion, Zaza explained the situation – pretending she had fallen asleep though. "We need to follow them quickly."

    Cajun pushed the trapdoor back open and got out, then lifted his sister out and waiting for the wolf to join them. "I really knocked myself out in a pillow trap? I'll never hear the end of it."

    "They went this way." Ignoring the attempts of the wolf to lead them into the other direction, Cajun and Zaza went east and then south when they noticed the door. There was a paladin sized dent in the wooden door. "Yep, they came here," she chuckled, for a moment forgetting her fears.

    "Didn't make it through that way. I wonder if there is a mechanism for it? I could probably burn the door down, but I don't think our elders won't be happy about us damaging the crypt any further."

    "We are trying to rescue someone. Does it matter?"

    "You have a point there," Cajun nodded. "Step back."

    A flask of alchemist's Fire, thick black smoke, coughing fits and a panicked wolf later, the door was gone. Zaza got up from the floor still gasping for air. "I won't ever ask you to make fire in closed quarters without air again."

    Another wail sounded, even louder now. "This way," Zaza said, following the noise.

    "What if it is not the survivor?"

    "Then... well, you have more flasks of that, don't you?"

    "What was that about fire in close quarters again?" Cajun followed her though, he needed to protect his sister, after all. His hands were on the hilts of his weapons.

    They went left and then down a long corridor to their right. The mournful wailing grew louder with each step toward the door at the end of this musty hallway. There were a host of bones strewn on the floor here, many of which were cracked and broken. "Who is there? Cajun shouted. "This is Cajun, and Zaza, on the ill begotten Quest for the stupid Everflame."

    The wailing stopped. A moment later, the keen ears of the two unwilling heroes made out the sound of a loading crossbow. "I don't believe it, we come to help this one and now we are targets?" Zaza snapped.

    "Maybe he's lost his mind," Cajun suggested. "Hey, we are from Kassen and here to bring you back home. Do you hear? We are friends!"

    "Please?" Zaza added. "We are scared, too. There were skeletons but Cajun destroyed them."

    "And I'll destroy any others coming close." Cajun wasn't as certain about that but he sounded confident enough to make the person on the other side shuffle towards the door. "You help me? And my sister? The one with the voice of dead who stalks these halls in ancient mail took her, she must be alive still. She must. The dead one who speaks..."

    "Wait," Cajun shouted as the one on the other side started to push away the barricade. "We need syou to stay in there and be safe until we rescue your sister and can come back for you. What's your name?"

    Zaza looked surprised, but then she nodded. "No need trying to take a mad man with us, and if we leave him outside he may run and get lost."

    "I'm Roldare. My sister, she's Dimira. Heeeeelp her!" The man started wailing again.

    "Where did you see her last?" Zaza shouted over the noise.

    "Don't remember... somewhere in the crypt..."

    "That's helpful," Cajun groaned. "We'll look for her now. You need to shut up and stay calm, hear? So nothing bad will find you?"

    All of a sudden, the noise stopped and they could hear only whimpering.

    "Do skeletons wear mail?" Zaza asked while they walked back the way they came.

    "I don't think so. We should ask the paladin. How come the others have not found Roldare?"

    "Maybe they have but decided to give up on him." Zaza pointed to the other corridor, now to their left, which they had ignored before. "Which means they must be that way."

    "Or they took right where we left the trap room before."

    For a second, they stood undecided. Then Cajun went left. "The smith always says that when going into unknown area, you need to make sure nothing falls into your backs. So let's check this out first."

    Zaza didn't bother to mention that until they had not checked everything out, there was always a chance of something falling into their backs. But for some reason, she was not as scared as before.

    A moment later, they arived at another door which was slightly ajar. The stench of decay came out of it. "I hope that's not Dimira," Zaza mumbled.

    "Someone died, and that's always tragic." Cajun peered around the edge of the door, holding the sunrod out in front of him. This small chamber was mostly empty, save for the body of a villager sprawled in the center. Perched atop the corpse was a man-sized brown and yellow beetle, trying to push the corpse into the corner where a pile of trash and filth awaits.

    With a quick move, Cajun closed the door. "A corpse of a man and a bombadeer beetle. I encountered one before, we don't want to deal with it. It probably just wants the corpse, we can come back for the dead later."

    They went back to the burned dowwn door and took the only way they hadn't checked. Again, they came to a wooden door tighly locked. "This is hardwood, can't burn it," Cajun said after trying to push it open. "And I'm not that good a locksmith but to me it looks like this is a one way door."

    "What, so the others can't have come this way? Then they must have passed the beetle."

    The wolf howled, trying to get them to understand yet again that they weren't on the right track, but he was ignoired once more.

    "Maybe the beetle wasn't there yet or they magically subdued it. We need to get past it somehow." Cajun frowned and started trotting back to the door he had just closed.

    "Can't you burn the beetle?" Zaza asked, "We can close the door until the smoke settles."

    "Yeah but, I only have two flasks left. What if there are dangers more worthy of a fire attack?"

    "What else did you bring?"

    "Just some acid. And I'm not sure of those things aren't immune to it. They spit acid themselves. Asides, we might need it, too."

    "Then" Zaza deducted, "you need to kill the thing. You just destroyed some undead, you can do this!"

    "I was not really thinking straight when I busted the skeletons," Cajun admitted, but nodded to show he agreed. He turned and went back, hesitation clear in his step. Carefully, he opened the door a little bit and sighed. "Maybe I should burn it anyway, and we'll close the door until the smoke is gone?"

    "My talking," Zaza agreed. "The skeletons you can deal with by yourself, brother!" She sounded proud, but there was no mistaking her saying you instead of we.

    A good aim and a long while later, Zaza became impatient. "Shouldn't the beetle thing have burned out by now?"

    "Well, yes... but not the dead body and the heap of rubbish," Cajun explained, smiling sheepishly and, as he hoped, apologetically. "I kind of miscalculated the effects. I should have waited until the beetle was out of the corner."

    With a dramatic sigh, Zaza folded her arms. "This is taking ages, and I don't feel good without the others. Well, maybe I'd not feel much better with them."

    "Sorry, it can only be minutes now." Cajun smiled again and shrugged his shoulders. "We should run through that room rather quickly, though, I saw a door at the other end."

    "Agreed."
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    Meanwhile, elsewhere in the crypt, a pressure plate was activated. As predicted, the statues all let their swords drop. Except the not yet leather wrapped ones, they all hit the floor with a harmless thud. The blank ones made it clear it would not have been a good idea to step on that plate unprepared.

    "Samin? We can go through," the bard announced. Samin had been checking out the closed door and found the key didn't fit.

    "No we can't," the paladin mumbled. The swords now created a barrier not easy to climb over.

    "Maybe we should have just jumped over it?" Samin suggested a little late.

    "Some people," Bjön made clear, " are not good at jumping. Any distance. At all."

    "We could have thrown you," Samin suggested with a grin. "At least once Cajun was here."

    "Nobody tosses a dwarf!" Bjön growled. "Especially not a paladin of Desna!"

    Mook, trapped between the sword blockade, tried to dislodge the backpack with the rubble to maybe lift up the swords again, but to no avail. It was stuck under the blades. "Try to get to the other end," Teltz suggested.

    "That's where the unwrapped swords are, they look too sharp for my taste." But Mook carefully came out of the alcoves and attempted to dodge past the lowered weapons. There were a few close moments – close enough for a cut, anyway – but she made it through. "What now? Are you coming?"

    The paladin was already on his way. With mail and gauntlets, he had no worries about being cut – getting over the swords as he was too biug to dodge under was another matter, especially with his shield. He was, as he made clear, not going to leave it behind though. The vew was rather comical, but asides from Samin's supressed chuckles, no one commented on the less elegant – more elephant as he called it – moves of the dwarf. Finally, the paladin rolled over the last set of swords and barely avoided a fall on the other end.

    Taltz followed with a lot more elegance, almost making it a show to dance over the blades while holding the sun rod. Björn grumbled but didn't comment. Samin hesitated. He wasn't exactly the most dexterous. On the contrary, he was lanky and awkward in his current state of development. Under the stares of the others, he finally made to the middle where the unwrapped swords started. Then a light went on in his head. With a grin, he turned and unwrapped the two swords behind him, having little difficulty to cut the wraps. Then, with care, he rewrapped them around the swords in front of him, which was more difficult then when they had been raised, but it wasn't too difficult either. He climbed over and repeated the process once more before joining the others. His father and Mook just stared at him in disbelief – probably because they had not had the same idea. Bjön just laughed. "Elves – always good for suprises."

    "What's it w-with a-all the d-doors?" Mook broke the silence, staring at the next, semi-opened door in front of them now.

    "Unbelievable," Samin mumbled. "Why can't they create simple crypts. One or two rooms for the deceasaed, that's all that is needed. Look at the trouble all this waste of space has gotten us in now."

    "A sign of respect," the bard explained, motioning for their mailed companion to check the next room. "Plus, there are a lot of raids on gravesides still. It was a precaution."

    "So? Looks to me like the bad guys got in and we are the ones having trouble. Asides, if people would stop wasting valuables by giving them to the dead, no one would raid graves in the first place. Well, except some necromancers, I suppose."

    "Shouldn't w-we w-wait for the o-others?" Mook suggested. "W-what is taking them s-so long?"

    "Next room looks harmless enough," Bjön said and waved to them. "But I don't trust it just yet."
    One half of this lofty chamber had a lowered floor, with stairs on either side to reach the bottom. Standing opposite the door was a tall wooden statue of Kassen grasping a gigantic wooden shield in each hand. One of the shields was inscribed with the word “home,” while the other read “family.”

    "There are too many images of Kassen for my taste," Samin said. "But placing a golem in his likeness here is very bad taste."

    "Golem?" Teltz frowned. "What makes you say that?"

    Samin begun to count off the tell tale signs, beginning from the way the wood was worked to the mobile appendixes – you could see it if you looked really close. It was hard with only the light from the sunrod. "So, it w-will attack us if w-we enter the r-room?"

    "Probably not, I guess only if we go down there where it is. And from what I gathered until now, there will probably be a lot of stupid traps again. We should leave it alone."

    "Some issues with that," his father said drily. "There is a door on it's side. We may need to reach it."

    "O-or not." Mook said, pointing the barely visinble stais going down somewhere else entirely, just to the left of the upper part of the room. "T-that goes to the l-lower l-level of the c-crypt, I guess."

    "I find it unlikely you would be expected to get past that thing," Teltz nodded. "We can just ignoire it, I think. Unless we find some more skeletons to lure into here. I bet the thing would make short work with them."


    On the other side of the crypt, the smoke of the ill conceived beetle burning fun was finally gone, and the siblings carefully moved through to the next room. The were not even half there when more smoke was coming their way. "What now?" Zaza rambled. "Where's that coming from?"

    Cajun peaked into the room the smoke emerged out of. The remains of a small fire smoldered in the center of this broad chamber, letting off a plume of oily smoke. Fed by a heap of burning gear, debris, and more than few bones, the fire casted a flickering light across the walls of this room, partially obscured by the veil of smoke.

    "Looks like someone was burtned here with all their gear, I can still smell their remains." Cajun tried to sound casual, but he felt sick to his stomach. "No point going in there until that is out, there must be a nbatural chimney but I see no point in waiting. They aren't here."

    "Look, stairs leading down," Zaza exclaimed, pointing to their right. "They went that way." She didn't take notice of the wolf's howling attempt to direct them back once more.

    "Going deeper? I don't know..."

    "We promised to rescue that poor guy's sister. What if that was me and you were needing the help?" Zaza's fear had all but gone, there was just a lingering worry at the back of her mind, and the need to find the others and the missing woman.

    "Very well," Cajun agreed. "But I have a bad feeling about this."

    The light of a sun rod went towards them while they walked down. "Mook, Samin? Is that you?" Cajun called out. A moment later Amin answered affirmative, but he sounded amazed. "Cajun? What are you doing here?" The wolf rushed by them and went to gret his master enthusiastically.

    "We crossed under something," Teltz deducted. "Likely another corridor we have not found yet. We got back to the other side."

    In short words, they told each other what had happened. After that, it seemed clear that there were two choices – try and get past the golem to the room on the lower end, or break open the other door somehow which was leading out of the pool room. Or, as it had worked before, burn it. Zaza seemed fond of that suggestion. "Just this time, we can use the lamp oil. It's all in your packs," she pointed at Samin.

    "There are no undead where the golem is," the paladin said, pointing to his amulet. "We need to go down, so I vote for the door from the pool room."

    "We have to climb all the way back over the swords?" Samin groaned. He still felt a bit tired from his last climb.

    "Don't complain, it is more difficult for me," the dwarf laughed.

    And so it was that the party made heir way back to the pool room and set the door on fire, creating yet more smoke.

    "More images of Kassen," Samin groaned as they saw the room behind it. A small stone bench sat in the center of this dusty chamber. On the far wall was a faded mural depicting the hero Kassen defeating the mercenaries at the entrance to this crypt, with his blade piercing the chest of the mercenary leader. These figures stood alone in the center of a scene of carnage, with dead villagers and mercenaries all around them.

    "Yeah, I am g-getting tired of h-his face, t-too," Mook agreed.

    "Now here's something amazing," Teltz said and pointed. "No door at the start of the next corridor."

    "Maybe someone burned it before?" Cajun suggested.

    "Doesn't look like it." Zaza carefully walked down the corridor around where it turned right. "As I feared, there's a door there."
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    We didn't make it through the adventure as expected, the battles took quite a bit longer than it seems, with the usual misses.

    ----------------------------


    The dwarf pushed by the others, obviously impatient about Zaza's hesitations. "There are always lots of doors in dungeons and tombs," he stated with a certainty he acquired by listening to his family talking about their many adventures. He wasn't about to tell them he had only been in a dungeon once, and never in a tomb of any kind. With a gesture he thought would appear knowledgeable, he put his right index finger to his nose. The door looked simple enough; it would slide right when pulled by a small handle. He made a move to do just that.

    Zaza sighed in a loud manner suggesting she thought the move foolish. "It's the middle of the crypt, as it seems, maybe it's protected and we should be more careful?"

    "Nah," Samin grinned. "If there were real dangerous traps in here they wouldn't have sent us."

    "But they all died before they finished dealing with the crypt, I guess," the bard countered. "Maybe there are dangerous traps in here they could not disarm, son."

    At the mentioning of the two of them being related, the paladin raised his eyebrows but decided to inquire about it later. "The door looks simple enough. I can't see anything looking like a trap." Zaza behind him snorted, doubting the man's ability to find traps at all, but he didn't hear it. "There were no trapped doors in here until now, so why should this one be?" He winked at Zaza, but the girl was too tense to notice he was making fun of her. And if she had noticed, she might have exploded. Samir, who noticed both the teasing and Zaza's nervous state, decided to intervene by taking action. As foolish as it was, he had no other idea than to pull the door open. It took a bit of effort as he wasn't the strongest, but with only a minor squeak, it gave way to a seemingly vast room as dark as every other they had come through.

    The squeak of the opening door echoed back from inside in a way suggesting it was a larger room, probably with higher and maybe even lower walls. An abyss, maybe? The dwarf, able to judge such sounds from growing up mostly underground, lifted a hand to stop them for a moment. Silently, he lamented his night blindness. With the other hand, he took another sunrod from the pouch at his waist, certain they would need more light now. Holding it into the opening, he could see the door led out to a wide ledge going round a hole in the ground. Something tall was to the middle of the room, barely recognizable.

    "A tall wooden structure," Samir reported, being able to see way better in the dark. "It seems to have holes in it."
    Bjön held the sunrod into the room as best as he could, and finally he was able to make it out as well. A single pillar in the center of the room supported this wide, domed chamber. The pillar was surrounded by a pit, but a stone bridge crosses the pit on the south side. Dozens of arrows jutted from holes in the pillar, facing every direction.

    "Probably a trap," Zaza suggested. Carefully, she peered through the opening, but there was nothing moving, and the ledge around the opening in the ground at least seemed to be solid. "Maybe only one of us should step in with a rope tied around so no one falls down." There were, after all, ropes in their provided packs, and there must be some reason for those.

    "As g-g-good an ideas as a-any," Mook agreed. Shew was about to tie a rope around herself, being small and light, but Bjön gently took the rope from her. "I will not allow anyone else to endanger themselves."

    "Paladins," Samin's father mumbled barely audible.

    Mook stared for a moment and appeared to consider whether she had just been patronized or not. Additionally, the dwarf was, while small enough, quite heavier thanks to the armor. But with all of them to hold on to the rope, especially considering Cajun's strength, it should pose no problem to reign the man back in. So she nodded and handed him the rope. It was not as if she was keen on putting herself in danger, and the wolf pressing his snout into her hand was another reason not to risk her life if someone else wanted to do it.

    As Bjön went into the room, sunrod held high, the door suddenly begun to close behind him. With a shout of surprise, Cajun and Samin leaped forward to keep it open but they were too late. It locked with a rumble.

    "Let's open it again," Zaza hissed, but she was interrupted by Teltz' laughter. "No, don't... I just remember something. I guess I know what this is. Remember the blunt arrows we found at the entrance?"

    The youngsters thought for a moment, and Samin shook his head. Zaza and Mook nodded, though, they had seen the padded arrows around the dead bodies but had not paid them any mind. "Well, I heard talk of a rotating mechanism firing arrows when they talked about the crypt at the harvest festival. I guess we found it."

    Samin nodded, putting the holes in the wooden structure into perspective in his mind. "But why leave the door closed?"

    "B-because he is a s-self i-important p-paladin and has an a-armor to p-p-protect him?" Mook grinned

    "Exactly." The bard's grin almost split his face in two, a scary sight in the pale light.

    "You are evil, da," Samin chuckled. A moment later, they all laughed like mad, their inherent fear momentarily released as something else.



    Bjön, on the other hand, didn't quite share the fun. No sooner had the doors slid shut without a way to open them from his side that the large wooden contraption in the middle started turning. Then the first arrows short out at him. With a clang, the blunted arrows reflected from his armor, not leaving any dents but still forcing him to stumble back to the wall. One hit him on the helmet and almost made him fall. And there were many arrows. Grumbling, knowing that the machinery would eventually run out of them, the dwarf turned his face to the wall and waited. It would have been easier to jump back through the door and wait it out had someone thought to do that... but maybe it was jammed?

    Eventually, the torrent of arrows ended. Breathing a sigh of relief, Bjön turned around and had a better look at the room. He looked at the bridge going over the pit, likely a possibility to reload the mechanism but he had no intentions of looking any closer. His amulet indicated he had to move around to the south end of the room to find the undead he had been looking for even before he met the others. There was, to no big surprise, another door there.

    After his encounter in this room, the dwarf was hesitant to walk on alone. The girl, Zaza, seemed to have some trap sense, and it was not likely the rest of the group was unable to get in here. He decided to wait. His head was itching, but taking his helmet off in this situation was probably not such a good idea. Grimacing, he hoped the others would hurry up.

    A short while later, the door squeaked open again and Zaza's head peaked out of the corridor. "Is it safe yet?" she asked with a grin.

    "Quite," the dwarf nodded. "I take it you had some idea what was coming?" Bjön directed his question at the bard.

    "Well, yes, I remembered some talk at a festival. We thought you were fine with your armor." The look in the human's eyes was definitely not apologetic.

    "Hrm, well, don't forget there are undead here, and at least one abducted girl. We better try to stick together from now on."

    Zaza went pale, her skin taking a grey tone which was even visible in the pale light. She had all but forgotten about that, her scared mind pushing it to the back of her mind. "We better get going then, I guess," she mumbled.

    The ajar door in the south led them to yet another large room. 4 pillars held up a dome-like ceiling, with the room shaped like a stepped pyramid with them entering from the top. A continuous carving of mourners ran along the walls here, leading to a staircase on the south side of the room. Dripping water could be heard from downstairs, and what appeared to be a distant moan. Two alcoves could be seen next to the staircase. The layout was somewhat confusing, but at least the polished walls reflected the light somewhat.

    As soon as the group set foot into the room, however, the pillars seemed to be moving. It took them a moment to realize it was not the pillars, but 4 blood dripping skeletons. Zaza let out a piercing scream, she had never liked to see blood. Mook and her wolf took a step back and both snarled. Samin wondered aloud how those things could still be dripping blood when they were long dead and had no body. His mind could not wrap around this, probably out of the sheer terror of the encounter. It was like his brain froze until it could solve the one riddle.

    Cajun and the paladin, however, both went forward with a battle cry. Like before, Cajun went right into it and whirled around, being surprisingly nimble in his aim to avoid the things while bludgeoning them. A bit more controlled than in his initial encounter in the entrance hall, he managed to hit at least half of the time, but to his surprise, the undead things did not seem to be particularly concerned about his hammer. Bjön had more success, his axe cutting the spine of one in half at first try – but the abomination would not stop moving. Instead, it tried to crawl towards Mook. "someone must have put them here," the bard mumbled absentmindedly, then he mumbled a few words while throwing something from his pouch. A glittering dust fell on the skeleton crawling towards them and on one of the two Cajun was fighting against. The abominations seemed to hesitate, unable to see their foes any longer. The standing one turned and grabbed, in the hopes of finding a new victim.

    The amulet on the paladin's armor was suddenly glowing, directing a beam of bright multicolored light at the skeleton grabbing at him. The beam went right through the creature's arm, pulverizing it. Then Bjön turned the amulet, letting the light go over the rest of the once human body. A sickening smell of burning bones was now everywhere in the room, and the thing was gone. Before the amulet stopped glowing, Bjön, with some fast strides, stepped towards the two blinded skeletons and almost completely vaporized them as well.

    "Hey," Cajun gasped, hacking an arm off his last foe. He had blood on his hammer which was running down the handle, and the thought of touching it made him sick. "What about this one?"

    "Sorry, the amulet only works when I am in trouble of being harmed. I can't control the silly thing," the paladin admitted. His axe smashed the pelvis of the last skeleton, and a few hacks later, he chuckled at the bone parts while sprinkling some water from a flask on it. "Holy water," he explained. "Sometimes they come back otherwise."

    Bjön seemed to worse for the wear, but Cajun was frantically cleaning his hammer my bouncing it on the ground and shaking the blood loose. He looked like he had just run a marathon in all his working gear under hot sun, and his breath was labored. Visibly shaking, he tried to smile at Zaza, who was not really paying any attention to him.

    Samin finally stopped staring ahead, now that the abominations had ceased to exist. "Do we really want to go down there?" he said in a rather high pitched voice, his fear more than obvious.

    "Do you hear that?" The boy's adoptive father was suddenly all determined. "That wail – what if it is from the girl we are seeking? What if she is still alive?"

    Bjön stepped up ahead, and it was clear that he didn't intend to turn around. The others knew he would have come in here alone if they had not been there already. There must be more to him than a young dwarf with a powerful amulet. One by one, they followed him. "His amulet does not help us," Samin cautioned. "Easy to act the hero when you have something like that." But he, too, followed, if just to not be alone in the crypt. Their steps seemed to echo unbearably loud in this hall and down the stairs.

    At the bottom of the stairs was a circular chamber with three passageways leading from it. In the center was small stone pedestal. The sound of dripping water could now be heard coming from the eastern passageway, while the stench of rot emanated from the west.

    Zaza sniffed. "I now remember there are other tombs here but that of Kassen. Must be where the undead come from, but who made them?"

    "More t-tombs?" The halfling was not sure if to hide behind her wolf or shelter him. "B-but who m-made the d-dead into m-m-monsters?"

    "We'll find out." The dwarf pointed to an inscription in the floor, spiraling out from the pedestal. “To the south you might take your ease, to rest and reflect on Kassen’s deeds. To the east lies the wheel, to open the gate. To the west is the resting place of Kassen, hero of the Fangwood," he read aloud, following the letters with the sunrod.

    "Does this make sense to anyone?" Cajun asked. "What wheel, and why would anyone want to rest down here?"

    Bjön turned around once and then went east towards the dripping noise. A passage led him and the group now following him as if he was their leader – a typical paladin thing, if you asked Teltz – a slight slope down a corridor until it turned left and right. Here, it was flooded except a small part in the middle where their corridor entered. The water was not much at first, but one could see it getting deeper within the radius of the sunrod already. From the leaking ceiling, more water dripped slowly down. "One should make repairs eventually, lest the whole thing comes down," Cajun grumbled. "Or the whole crypt gets flooded. Imagine young people in a few decades having to dive for the everflame. If," he added after a moment, "it is even still here."

    Quickly they went back to the stairs, and here the wolf took the initiative to whine and move toward the southern passage, from which no sounds came. The short passageway takes a bend before ending in a small chamber dominated on the far side by a silver fountain quietly burbling perfectly clear water. An inscription above the fountain reads “Kassen’s legacy lives on with his people. Drink and be refreshed.”

    "Y-yeah r-right," Mook mumbled. "A-as if I'd d-drink anything from d-down here."

    The wolf stepped to the fountain and wagged it's tail though, as if to indicate everything was fine. "We might need water later, so we better keep this place in mind," Teltz suggested, pushing his raven hair out of his face.

    "Alright, but no girl here," Zaha whispered barely audible. "So we need to go where the stench is, after all."

    "Figures," Samin muttered. He was not cut out for this, he was a book worm, eager to study, not to go underground like a mole. And offending smells often caused him to gag or faint, which had lead to a lot of jokes during visits to his friend's master's alchemy lab in the past. But again, being left behind was not an option, and even if his father would walk back with him, they would be only two spellcasters with no or rather doubtful magic at their disposal.

    This time, the corridor opened up into a winding catacomb. The walls were skillfully carved with deep recesses where bodies might have once lain. All that remained now were cobwebs, dust, and the tattered remains of ancient clothing. The stench of rotting flesh was overpowering here, but the source was not evident.

    "Are they still in... in their tombs?" Cajun asked. "Or did we fight their leftovers?" As he said that, he stepped into the doorless room. Immediately, shuffling sounds could be heard from behind the old coffins.

    "Those are not skeletons," Teltz warned. "Those are..."

    "Z-z-z-zo.." Mook started and hid behind Cajun and her wolf.

    "Zombies," Bjön completed. "They look terribly bloated, too. Shouldn't they be more of a mummified kind, after all the time? Or fallen apart?"

    "No idea," Zaza almost squeaked. "But there's 4 of them and they come closer. "What about getting back where we came from?"

    "They look to be a lot fresher," Teltz analyzed. "Some grave robbers, maybe? No townsfolk clothes, that's for sure." He was pushed back into the crossroads by the others, the paladin bringing up the rear. The catacomb was a bad place to maneuver, they stood a better chance out there.

    I'm not going close to those things," Cajun announced. "I'm not really a fighter."

    "Can you do that sparkly thing again?" Zaza asked the bard. "Would help if they can't see a thing."

    "Maybe. If we all get on the pedestal, maybe they will come all in one file and I can get them all. From what I know about zombies, they are just mindlessly following along."

    "Quintessentially," Bjön nodded and jumped on the pedestal as well. The badly distorted and smelling animated corpses came closer. Mook vomited over the edge of the pedestal, looking decidedly green, as much as the others could guess in this light.

    "We would make a nice group of legendary heroes," Cajun tried to joke, ignoring a shiver. "Can you imagine the story of Nan and the Liberators with them vomiting and shaking all the time?" No one answered him.

    Teltz waited until the outstretched arms of the obscenely groaning monstrosities reached out for them before he did his spell again. This time, the glittering dust set on all of them, but they were not as deterred; two still tried to come up the pedestal. Everyone jumped down, Zaza almost falling in her own vomit. She caught her footing with difficulty, probably owned to her being so shaken.

    Her trouble to stay upright caused a grin to spread over Teltz' face, and a moment later he was again mumbling something. Another moment later, the zombies following them started to lose their balance on a seemingly slippery floor. One by one, they tumbled down.

    "Your holy water!" Samin suddenly exclaimed. "You have a lot, yes?" the voice of the mage apprentice was hopeful. "Can't you put it on your axe and make them stay dead once you hit them?"

    Bjön frowned for a second, then he nodded. With a bit of difficulty, he put the remaining water from the small bottle he had opened earlier on the blade of his axe. Then he stepped carefully towards the zombies, attempting to stay just outside the slippery area the bard had conjured up. Dancing around them and avoiding their grasp, the paladin hacked them apart one by one. While it took longer than appreciated, the method worked and slim tendrils of smoke rose from the destroyed undead. To everyone's surprise, each of them exploded before falling apart. Some weird evil magic shot the rotten flesh and bones into several directions. Bjön's amulet glowed and seemed to erect a shield between him and the zombie leftovers, but Cajun, who stood protectively a good distance away in front of the others - just in case – got hit by a nasty piece of rotten flesh. Zaza went green in the face.

    "Wash this off at the fountain!" Teltz commanded. Cajun was just all too happy to follow the order.

    The stench at the crossroads was now almost unbearable. It was said that after a while you would get used to almost every smell, often within minutes, but this was definitely not true for rotting bodies. "I-I need some f-f-fresh air," Mook coughed.

    "That will have to wait till later, I'm afraid. Not a good idea to go up there alone and I am not turning back before the girl, or what is left of her, is found." The dwarf already turned towards the catacomb they had found the zombies in.

    Cajun was not the only one cleaning himself at the fountain; Samin, Mook and Zaza followed suit, though they had not been hit with any nasties. Careful not to dirty the fountain, they washed and had a little drink. "I feel all better now," Zaza exclaimed, her fear taken from her for now. Mook just nodded, giving the frightened wolf a bit of water as well. When they came back to meet Teltz, the human pointed to the catacomb. "Our invincible paladin, hero of all dwarfs is already in there," he sarcastically remarked.

    "Well with that amulet, he better go ahead and clean the undead out for us," Zaza mumbled.

    Mook seemed to want to say something, but it was obvious her stuttering prevented her to talk right now. Instead, she grabbed the wold by the scruff and directed him onward. Together, they followed Bjön, and the others shrugged in silence and followed her.

    Bjön was going through a rotting backpack when they reentered the room. "Seems our suspicions were right; those bodies were only a few months old. There's a tattered map of the area here, marking the entrance to the crypt, some money and a healing potion. And a curious notice." The dwarf handed it to the bard.

    "A notice of employment offered," Teltz said and scratched his head. "Someone employed those zombies - I mean before they turned that way - to come here and... do what?"

    "That's what it looks like," Bjön nodded. "Any idea who would employ adventurers, or grave robbers, whatever you might call them, to come to the crypt of Kassen? Is there anything of real value here?"

    Taltz snorted. "Unlikely, our town isn't rich, and hero worship nice and dandy but if there was anything valuable here once, it's now gone I guess."

    "Maybe the emplyer didn't know," Samin suggested. "Is there a name?"

    "No." Teltz put the notice away in his pouch. "We might want to send someone to the meting place mentioned to make sure it does not happen again. The mayor will not appreciate the place being robbed. Maybe even notify authorities."

    "Yeah, as if anyone else cares," Samin sighed.

    Zaza pointed to the open door in the south of the room. "Let's get away from this smell."

    No one argued. But the sight and smell in the next room was not really better. A shallow reflecting pool divided this long chamber, running from one end to the other. The water looked cloudy and stagnant. What must have once been marvelous murals covering both walls was now scorched and ruined, the original subject lost in the destruction.

    "A shame," Teltz growled. "Don't think it will be possible to repair these."

    "What's with the pool?" Zaza wondered. "It's been completely ruined, too, just look – oh, no!"

    From the murky pool's shallow reflection, her own but rotten corpse stared back at her, then it slowly turned and started attacking the others. Zaza blinked, and horror almost overcame her, but then she let out a deep breath and steadied herself. An evil illusion was all it was. From the corner of her eye, she saw the paladin, her half brother and Teltz react much the same way. Samin, though, staggered backwards with a gasp and panic in his eyes, and from the other side of her she could hear a scream clearly coming from Mook and a whine belonging to the wolf. As she turned to calm her friend, it was already too late. Mook took off between sobs and wails, her confused companion right on her trail. As Mook had no source of light – the paladin and the halfling holding the sunrods – they were soon out of sight. No doubt the wolf could orient himself by scent, but as a gnome, Mook was able to see quite well when there was little light but not without any at all. And all the sunrods were in Samin's pack.

    Zaza was torn between following her friend and not leaving the protection of the paladin's presence. Without noticing, she had come to rely on him. Samin was sobbing to the other side. Samin's father and Cajun, the latter looking very confused, held down the three-quarter-elf to prevent him from running off as well.

    "Not your fault, this pool is a trap." Teltz spoke as if he could read Zaza's mind. "Mook has Dadawin, he'll be able to guide her back to us once her panic wears off."

    "How long will that take?" Zaza asked weakly.

    "We'll see when he calms down," Cajun said, still restraining his friend.

    "There's a portcullis here," Bjön said from the south of the room, holding the sunrod up so the other could see better. "There seems to be an unlocking mechanism on the other side. So as much as I want to get out of this room without having to go back, we have a bit of a problem here."

    "Maybe... maybe I can open it," Zaza offered. She had, in the recent past, found out she had quite a knack for opening locks.

    No luck with this door, though. There was, as they soon found out, no lock or keyhole. Just a lever set in the wall on the other side, barely viewable if you pressed against the wall to take a peek.

    "That makes no sense," Samin suddenly said, still with a shaky voice but the terror had obviously left him. "There must be a way to get in from this side."

    "Not in this room," his father shook his head. "Maybe we overlooked something outside."

    "So back out after all, and then looking for Mook while at it?" Zaza suggested.

    "No point in looking for her when she will have come to her senses now and is probably on her way back already. No, I was wondering if Zaza could squeeze through the bars. The lever looks workable enough." Bjön looked at her with a smile.

    "I'll try," Zaza agreed. Once Mook returned, she wanted to be away from this place.
    My Story Hour campaigns. What are they up to this week?

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    Hey, a fellow German DM!

    Playing all the modules and APS with the same group is quite a task to take on and honestly I wonder how this will play out level-wise, but...

    I'm keeping my fingers crossed and look forward to regular reports of your party's antics, for, as far as as Pathfinder is concerned, we really need someone to follow in JollyDocs's footsteps here (in addition to Arendel and his Serpent Skull campaign)!

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    I'm quite hopeful because we are also playing a long 13 worlds spanning homebrew campaign that's running for about 10 years now (and will likely need 4-5 more years to finish).

    As for levels, we go by what characters actually manage to learn and not so much by XP. As there will not always be time to learn a lot in between parts of adventures, it should be workable. And for some adventures, probably only 1 or 2 of them will do them as some will be stuck with RL work and/or school. We found in the past that even a lvl 2 encounter can be fun for a level 10 if they have to do it alone and we don't take ourselves too serious.

    I don't know how obvious it was, but for the last session, Mook's player, which happens to be son's GF, wasn't present so she didn't act much. We have yet to figure out a good substitution player system, but first everyone really needs to get into their characters.
    My Story Hour campaigns. What are they up to this week?

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    Single player session with Mook the gnome to catch up on her fate after she split from the party.

    --

    Mook, however, had managed to get lost. After bouncing into this and that wall on her way out of the catacomb they had come though and almost falling over the pedestal in the crossroad room, she had finally managed to hang on to one sane thought – finding a wall and walking along it instead of into it. She was still rushing it though, and so it too her a moment to notice that she had taken a left turn and a right somewhere and water was splashing under her. In fact, her sturdy boots were already filled with water. Stopping, she gasped for air. There was no other sound but dripping water and her labored breaths, and cold was creeping up from her wet feet. And of course, it was totally dark. Her hands were resting on a wooden structure she recognized as a door. "I b-b-better t-t-turn b-back," she told herself, finding comfort in her own voice but getting exasperated at her stutter made worse by the cold and her fear. Unfortunately, she involuntarily increased the pressure of her hands and the door slowly opened into whatever lay behind. Reacting too slow in her surprise, Mook stumbled forwards and fell face first into the water.

    A moment later, she heard something moving towards her, and then there was a loud croak. It definitely sounded like a frog. A dim green light came from somewhere. The room was filled with water, probably as deep as the outside corridor. The chamber was in an advanced state of decay, with a gaping hole in the ceiling admitting a constant trickle of water. This was also the source of the greenish light. The three stone sarcophagi in this room were almost completely covered in a thick carpet of moss and fungus. On the first sarcophagus, a giant frog was sitting. Mook, on her feet again, could feel the movements of the water – at least two creatures were swimming towards her.

    "He-hello!" the gnome said, deciding that her ability to talk with animals would be a good chance to avoid any conflict. ""You m-may be hungry, but I a-assure you, I'm n-not a f-food s-s-source for you." Luckily, the animals would only hear the meaning of her words, and not her stutter.

    Two more frogs came out of the water close to her, looking decidedly spooky in the green light. "You look fine to eat to us," one commented, definitely not used to being talked to by its dinner.

    "W-what do y-you usually eat d-down here?" Mook wondered. "Y-you should kn-know that preying on two-legs is n-not usually h-healthy." No need to let them know she had little, if any, defense.

    "Rats. Bugs. Spiders. Crawly things. Bad smelling two-legs made them all go away." The frog on the sarcophagus made it sound as if that was her fault.

    "M-maybe you sh-should just go out of here, t-then?" Mook suggested.

    "Can't jump so high," the frog replied, sounding sad.

    Mook looked up and frowned at the hole in the ceiling. "This gg-goes to your old p-pond, n-no? M-maybe I can help you g-get out if -you don't eat me. W-would you l-like that?"

    "You can't jump that high either, not with those legs you can't," one of the other frogs noticed.

    "W-well no, but I c-can climb up o-on that thing a-and l-let you hop from m-my sh-shoulders. It m-might work. O-or I c-can just sh-show you an other exit, I g-guess."

    "We do not want to go out of the water again. Last time we tried, smelly two-legs almost eat us," the frogs made clear. "You look sturdy, we will try."

    With a little difficulty, Mook climbed up onto the sarcophagus in the middle, directly under the opening. She only fell back into the water twice. She felt decidedly silly with the frogs staring at her and was also worried they might decide to try gnome meat after all. But finally she was standing with legs wide and slightly bowed forward. "Hop to it," she told them.

    A moment later there was a substantial weight on her shoulders, and another moment later, she felt pushed down to the stone as the frog jumped off of her. In vain she tried to hold on to the lid of the stone tomb, but once more she felt herself gliding under the water. As she came back up, however, there was a croaking sound which was definitely laughter. "I'm out, I'm out," the frog confirmed.

    The other two frogs were closing in on her, and with a sigh, Mook climbed back up, this time not slipping. It took the next frog 4 tries to get out, and every time Mook fell off, once banging her chin on the lid. The last frog only took two tries. By the time the last one croaked thanks and goodbyes, she had enough of water and cold. Quickly, she cast her favorite spell for being out and about. Now the elements would not bother her anymore.

    Her eyes darted around the room, noticing another door than the one she came in. This one was slightly ajar, revealing a long corridor with seemingly nothing else in it. For all the fear she had displayed earlier, her little adventure with the frogs and being rid of the wet cold made her a lot more bold all of a sudden. She made the somewhat foolish decision to move on.

    The water was deeper in the corridor. The corridor turned right after a bit, and just when Mook remembered she had no light and should probably give up at this point – it was getting difficult to see something – a blueish electric discharge came from the room to her right, illuminating the corridor long enough for her to make out the opening to a larger room at its end. "Ugh, A-azure Fungus," she muttered to herself. She would avoid the room to the right, this sort of fungus was not pleasant to deal with and would discharge electric loads every few minutes. Mook had had an unfortunate encounter with a small one of this specimen only a few weeks ago and no intention to repeat it. At least there was little danger anything would come at her from there, she mused.

    The end of the corridor was the end of the effect of the green light from the frog room. The water was deeper here yet and appeared to be a lot murkier. "I sh-should have listened t-to m-my grandm-mother," Mook admitted and decided to check her wet rucksack for anything useful in this situation. Her tiny spear, sling and sling stones and her water skin were the only things which seemed to be usable in wet conditions. Maybe she should keep the spear at hand now, anyway. She wasn't that good with it but if the frogs had stayed hostile, it would not have helped to carry it on her back.

    Finally, she found a small linen pouch with some hard objects in it. All things, partly magical and partly mundane, her druid grandmother had given her for several name days. Most of the magic stuff was one use, fun trinkets, she had already used up some. Like the echo spells she had annoyed the council with at one of their recent meetings. Or the beans of bloating you added to any food to make people... well, stuff like the druidic marks on it. Her grandmother had told her to bounce any spell off it and it would make the spell last until dismissed or about an hour for each step she had taken in the initiations of her gnome clan. Unfortunately, she had only had the mind to do two of the initiation steps yet and no doubt, the pebble was meant to encourage her to be more diligent in her studies. However, grandma had mentioned a drawback, some side effects she did not want to mention the details of. "I'll kn-know, she s-said," Mook mumbled, her voice sounding spooky in the area. "M-maybe I should have t-tried it out b-before." But she had not, and she needed the light now.

    With excitement and worry at the same time, Mook attempted the only spell she thought would make sense down here. Thanks to her stutter and nervousness, it took her 3 attempts before the spell bounced off the pebble, which glowed greenish for a moment. Then 4 dancing lights appeared as expected. However, they were not the usual color but also a light green. It fit the strange atmosphere, for sure, but it also felt wrong somehow. Mook wondered if that was the drawback, but if so, it was not much of one.

    She had been taught from a young age that magic had personality, a signature, so to speak. Every spell worked a little different with every user. Her father's dancing lights, for example, had always just been two, but varied in size. Mook tried to remember if her grandmother's were green, but could not remember. More relaxed now, she let the lights flow into the room and had her first good look.

    This large chamber was partially flooded, with the south end just barely rising out of the stagnant water. A large wheel was set into the floor of the dry area, attached to chains that rose up into the ceiling. A thick layer of slick, black mold covered the carvings on the walls of this chamber.

    It smelled like the fungus, too. Better not to get submerged here, this was the sort of fungus probably causing skin irritations and breathing issues when inhaled too long. The young oracle put the pebble away and went deeper into the room and the water. The ground was trickery, slippery from some sort of growth, but she wanted to check out the wheel at the end. In the stories of her childhood, such devices usually opened secret doors to unimaginable riches. She would certainly not mind being rich.

    With the lights gliding directly under the water surface, Mook was barely able to make out the floor. She did notice the two water filled pits though, flanking a bridge to the side with the wheel. Someone less good at swimming would probably have needed to secure themselves with a rope; however, Mook grew up at a pond and could swim before she could walk. With no need to hold a light source, the gnome girl just swam over, pushing the ideas of what else might be under the surface aside. There would be time to clean up later.

    The gnome always fell backwards into the water trying to regain her footing on semi-dry ground. The rucksack was all heavy with water. She wished she knew a dry spell. But she made it this far, and no more frogs or undead in sight.

    Right this moment, she could hear and feel something stirring in the water behind her. Mook froze for a moment, then she turned around to see 6 skeletons in tattered remains of clothes and gear make their way towards her. They were slow on unsteady ground, unable to swim, but they were making progress nonetheless.

    Biting her lips and fighting back a renewed panic, the girl quickly went through her pouch and the small linen bag in her backpack. While doing so, her hands found one of the healing potions they had gotten from the mayor on their start of the journey. This brought back the lessons of her grandmother. Undead could be harmed with almost all magic which healed the living. She had no idea if this was true for the potions, too, but then, trying to hit a skeleton with enough potion to do anything would be about impossible for her, anyway. But her healing magic would work. There was only one problem. She would have to touch them, and she only could get some of them, not having enough magical power left for all. And two of them wielded rusty scimitars. Those were the last ones in the irregular row of undead approaching her. A plan formed in her mind. She would need to make it past the first two, however, and that would mean trying to destroying them, or at least bring them down to their single parts for now.

    Later, Mook was not able to explain if it was mad heroism or a courage born of fear, but she dropped her backpack and lounged herself at the skeleton in the front, a good pace away from the following 5. When her hands contacted with the undead bones, she screamed out her spell and proceeded to roll into a ball before checking what it had done. The cold water engulfed her just behind her first foe, and she let herself sink under the water. Judging the position and speed of the next skeleton, she propelled herself at it with all the swimming speed her gnome body could muster and touched the bone legs of the next enemy. Casting spells under water was not new to her, and again she did not wait to see what the spell had done. Instead, she pushed on towards the left of the watery pits.

    Whirling around and coming through the surface again, she noticed the skeletons in the dim light of the dancing lights she had left at the wheel in the wall. There was no sign of the two skeletons she had touched. Thinking about it made her shiver worse than the murky water. The other 4 had stopped and now shuffled back towards her as slow as before.

    The gnome was out of breath. She was a fast swimmer on short distances only. Repeating her stunt with any of the others, especially those with the scimitars, would prove too dangerous. Instead, she swam back towards the moldy wall, hoping to draw them to her. From what she remembered, those abominations were likely to just follow their one need to harm the living and not particularly watch where they were going.

    Her plan worked well enough. The two with the scimitars were now closest to her and the first to lose their footing where the pit started. Immediately, they sank to the murky depths of the room, weapons still clutched into bony hands. One other went over the edge of the bridge and began to sink when the last one suddenly stopped.

    Mook had no intention to wait here long, who knew what else was lurking in the water. The element of surprise was gone; although she had no idea how much this thing in front of her actually understood of its surroundings. Taking a deep breath, the gnome went under water again, attempting to swim in a wide berth over the bridge to the other pit. She had to come up for breath short of her destination, for a moment gaining footage on the slippery bridge. The skeleton had turned around and was still following her. Again, she went under the surface, swimming close to the wall of the pit on the bridge side. It was hard to see anything despite her low light vision; the dancing lights only reflecting vaguely off the water surface and not reaching below. But she could see the undead thing bowing down to look for her. One of its feet was just a hand off her face.

    With a quick grab, she held on to the thing's leg bone and rushed out her healing spell again, almost out of breath now. The skeleton crumbled around her, smoking bones dropping into the pit and onto the bridge. Pushing away the need to vomit, Mook heaved herself into the bridge and on her shaky legs and staggered back to the wheel and her backpack. Exhausted, she dropped to the ground, wishing herself dry of the dirty water and rid of the memory of what she had just done. If she could avoid it, she would not swim through that again – but that left only the large wheel and what it would open.

    After what seem3ed like ages,. She had caught her breath again and stood up to face this next obstacle. The large wheel was actually set in the floor directly in front of the wall. Getting a hold on it, Mook checked to see which way it would turn. Clockwise, as it seemed, but the thing was somewhat rusty and jammed. Again taking deep breaths, the gnome put both hands on the wheel and pushed from the left. With a sickening screech, the contraption started to move, very slow first but then slightly faster. Finally, there was some resistance and Mook could push it no further.

    Looking around, the gnome was badly disappointed. No other door had opened, not had anything else happened. "M-my luck, this thing is b-broken," she mumbled. There would be no helping it; she would have to go back the way she came. Maybe that was for the best, as she now remembered she was short one animal companion and a whole handful of friends.
    My Story Hour campaigns. What are they up to this week?

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    Said friends were currently arguing about Zaza squeezing into the next room or not. Her brother and the paladin were vehemently against it. A lot of things could be waiting in that room, and it would be even worse if she was attacked while still trying to get through. The bard and Zaza wanted to try it – Teltz because he saw the need for it and had enough experiences in dungeons to see that there was relatively little risk, and Zaza because she wanted to be useful for a change. Samin didn't know what to think and made the situation somewhat worse when he had to pee and picked a corner of the room for it. All eyes were suddenly on him, and just to distract from what he had just done, he nodded to Zaza. "Let her do it, we can always pull her out again."

    With a determined grin, Zaza immediately got to it before anyone else could get a word in. Carefully, she twisted her body to be able to pass the portcullis and initially made good progress.

    "Why is Mook not back yet?" Samin suddenly asked. "Haven't heard a sound from Dadawin in a while, either."

    "I guess they went out," Cajun mused. "Mook's furry friend never likes it underground, and she was pretty well scared."

    As if on cue, they could hear the scared whimper of the wolf somewhere back at the crossroad room. Zaza, who was half though the obstacle, flinched at the sound and promptly got her shirt stuck at a sharp nail. A tearing noise, and her left shoulder was free of clothing but instead had an ugly red scratch. Trying to ignore the burn and hoping there were no poisons or anything on that nail, she tried to move on, but her shirt was still stuck. It didn't appeal to her to rip the shirt of completely and stand in the damp cold half naked – not only because the others were all male.

    No one had noticed her plight, as Teltz and his son had just gone back around the corner to check what was with the wolf, and Cajun, hammer in hand, followed them when he noticed what they were doing. Bjön sighed, knowing very well that no undead were close that way – his amulet would have shown him – stared at the cursed pool that had caused Mook to run off and was digging around in his magical rucksack. Zaza could barely see him the way she was stuck. It looked like he was taking out a powder of sorts, spreading it over the water while mumbling something. A prayer, probably. While the dwarf was busy, she went a bit backwards, managing to free her shirt. Relieved, she moved ahead again when she suddenly remembered it might not be such a good idea to do that while no one was protecting her in case something was indeed on the other side. "Hey, Bjön," she called. "Mind to keep an eye on the other room while no one else is here?"

    "Ah, sorry about that." The young man looked worried as he returned to her site. "Just wanted to use some divine essence on that pool. My last, too, but it seemed to dangerous to leave it like that. You tore your shirt," he added the obvious.

    "Yeah, well, that I did." She was glad he couldn't see her rolling her eyes. "What's going on out there?" Wiggling through a little further, she heard footsteps, including that of an animal. The wolf was whining and yelping, and Samin and Cajun tried to calm the poor thing down.

    "The weirdest thing," Rodawin explained. "I can't really read his mind but I am getting emotions from him, strange pictures. As if he was somewhere where it was really cold and windy, and an orc forced him to fight." He paused for a second. "It sounds like Dadawin has been summoned somewhere. Imagine that."

    "Huh? I always thought you would not remember being summoned. The idea of probably dying a terrible death for someone and remembering it..." Cajun shook his head. "Bad enough creatures get enslaved that way."

    "Are you part of the anti-summoning movement now?" Samin mocked. "You'd not say that if you would need the assistance. And I don't think you usually remember."

    "Not usually, no," Teltz mused. "But it can happen." The way he said it it sounded like he was speaking from experience."

    "I hate to interrupt your discussion," Zaza grumbled. "But could you probably push me a little? I don't want to hurt a tendon if not needed."

    Cajun turned to see his sister stuck in a weird position. She could probably really do it alone, but he didn't want to see her hurt. He went over to her and had a better look. "Push where, exactly? Your, eh, fanny?"

    "Just push," she snarled. The space to get through was really tiny and she was getting cramps in her back.

    "Alright, alright,." With a last look at the other room, Cajun pushed. A low, squeaky noise came from the portcullis. Cajun hesitated, then pushed again. After a moment, with Zaza now having one leg one either side of the contraption, the sound could be heard again. Cajun stopped, having a good look at the portcullis. "What was that sound?"

    "Hell if I know, brother. All I know is I want out of here. Like, now."

    "Yeah yeah, here, now.." Cajun wanted to push again when the squeak sounded again, louder now. The portcullis started to vibrate and then it slowly lifted, slow at first but quicker by the second. Cries of surprise and fear mixed into the sound of the old mechanism going up and taking the stuck Zaza with it. Thanks to being almost through, she now dangled with her head down on the other side and her behind and legs up on the side she went in.

    "I don't think this has enough power to hurt her," Taltz said, assessing speed and age of the mechanism. "It will probably just get stuck."

    "Whatever," Zaza protested loudly, her voice close to a full panic. "Get me out!"

    Teltz theory proved right. When Zaza's body stopped the portcullis from going completely in, the mechanism came to a halt with a shudder. Everyone was staring at the upside down stuck halfling. The halfling in turn stared down at them from her weird perspective.

    Dadawin yowled and shook them awake. "Take care of this, I'll go and find Mook," the bard said with only a slight hint of amusement in his voice. Gently, he grabbed the wolf by his simple gear and shoved him out to the first room with tombs. "Go find your master," he whispered.

    "Right so, if we, like, oh, I don't know, me stand here and steady my sister and you push her through?" Cajun asked hopefully.

    The Dwarf shot him a weird look. "I'm not exactly big enough to reach up there and push."

    "Right, so, what about, you come here and try catch her while I push?"

    "Would you two bad excuses for court jesters listen to me for a second?" Zaza interrupted them as it became clear they had no clue what to do. "If one of you would be so kind as to pull the lever to let me back down..?"

    "Lever?" Cajun asked, confused.

    "Yeah you know, the lever that was the reason for my squeezing through in the first place?" At times, Zaza wondered how men were able to find their own behinds.

    "That... is a good idea," the paladin admitted. He quickly went to do so, only slightly blushing of embarrassment. Nothing happened though. Before Zaza could yell at him, Bjön pushed the lever back to its original position, and his moment of clarity was rewarded with the sound of the portcullis crashing down again.

    It was Zaza's luck that her brother had been standing there to make sure she didn't hit her head. "Next time, tell us what you are doing exactly," he growled.

    Zaza got up and moved over to the lever again, pushing it and thus the portcullis up again like she originally planned to do. The frown on her face made her look a lot older.

    Samin had watched the whole chaos with disbelief. "I wonder who or what caused it to go up in the first place," he wondered.

    "Yeah, same here, but as long as we are staying on the side with the lever, we can always get out, at least I hope so." Cajun knocked on the metal. "I still have some acid to burn through it, unless it is somewhat magically fortified."

    "Unlikely." Samin didn't bother to check. Instead, he lifted the sunrod he had been holding since a while over his head to see the room better. That was when all hell seemed to break loose.

    A shrieking swarm of wings and fur descended on them; a lot of tiny claws and teeth hacking and biting at them in the panic caused by the bright light – bright to bats, anyway.

    "Not again," Samin yelled and dropped to the floor. Anything like bats, rats, mice, insects, well, anything which could get at him quickly, harmless as it might be, was likely to cause a panic attack, and after a nasty encounter with bats and their droppings when he had been persuaded to do a midnight walk through a local cave last year he was particularly worried about bats.

    Cajun growled and pressed himself against a wall, kicking the sunron Samin had dropped out of his area. "Just stay calm, bats are harmless, they only attack when they panic, if at all."

    The paladin, uncaring as the bats couldn't bother him that much in his armor, shook his head. Zaza was keeping to the wall next to the door, too, waiting for the fuzz to end – which it did a few minutes later with the bats retreating through a large fissure in the ceiling. "I'm sure they were not supposed to be here," she mumbled.

    Cajun nudged Samin to get up. "They are gone, you baby. Really, you could show a bit more sense of adventure."

    "Adventure yourself," Samin whispered as he got up. "It was all fine as long as it was a growing up ritual, but now it is serious."

    "So that is why you learn spells, to stay out of the way of anything that's serious?" the paladin asked, looking directly at the young man.

    "Hey, I'm a scholar, not a spelunker. Only a fool goes where he does not belong," Samin snapped, checking over his numerous scratches. "I'm fine, thanks for asking." He picked up the sunrod again and managed to look quite insulted.

    Zaza was meanwhile exploring the rest of the chamber, which had a number of recesses carved into the walls and the graves of some of those slain in battle in this place so long ago. "Nothing here, I guess. Now we should wait for the others."

    They didn't have to wait long. Teltz returned with a happy wolf and a very wet Mook, who looked satisfied with herself and disappointed at the same time. She quickly explained where she had been, and until she mentioned the turning of the wheel, her friends looked at her in awe for defeating the skeletons so cleverly. Then she suddenly felt the stares of Mook and Cajun. "W-what?" she wanted to know.

    "So, you turn a wheel without having any idea what it does," Cajun recapped. "And when it does seem to do nothing you just shrugg it off."

    "Not taking into account it could probably do something elsewhere," Mook scolded. "It opened this portcullis – with me halfway through it. I was hanging upside down. In a crypt full of undead. Because of you turning a wheel."

    "We can't be sure that's what caused it," Samin tried to interject, but the other two didn't give in and, in between telling what happened with the door, berated Mook.

    Mook started to chuckle, the situation down here wanting to break out in any show of emotion. Samin's father touched her shoulder, and only Samin was able to see him moving his lips in a whisper before he spoke out loud. "Let's move on, we need to be done with this." Or die trying, he thought, but he didn't dare to say that aloud. Asides, he was sure he had seen worse.
    My Story Hour campaigns. What are they up to this week?

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