Just to be safe, the party decided to burn away the webs surrounding the huge, rune-covered obelisk, before entering. They remembered that webs are easily set alight by a flaming arrow, so Silaqui fired one into the “tent”. After a few minutes, the webs burned away, leaving smouldering logs. The group cautiously moved through the darkened archway, Draken in the lead.
A narrow, five-foot wide archway climbed downwards, at a very steep angle, into musty darkness. Gydion and Turin lit up their weapons with Light, while Jane lit Toboe’s feathered collar alight with the same orison. Silaqui drank a potion of Mage Armor. There were no rails, so the group had to move cautiously. As they descended, Draken read aloud the dwarven runes that covered the walls, which narrated the life and exploits of Nargrym Steelhand in great detail. After descending forty feet, the party reached a small landing. They noticed that the stairwell was becoming filled with spiderwebs, and that the webs were crawling with small, brown spiders. Gydion, Jane and Turin reassured the others that the brown spiders were a harmless species, but this did little to calm Silaqui, whose arachnophobia had already been sorely tested during their battle with ettercaps just a few minutes before.
Just as she finished identifying the small brown spiders, Jane spotted movement in the webs below the landing: an ettercap and a giant spider were crawling stealthily towards them! Battle commenced, with Silaqui firing the first shot, wounding the ettercap. Because of the narrowness of the landing, most of the heroes couldn’t act, and instead elected to hold their actions until the vermin approached close enough to attack. During the short but unnerving encounter, Gydion cast Produce Flame at the giant spider, setting the webs below them on fire! Turin’s now-improved familiar, Blaez, however, extinguished them with his Gust of Wind breath-weapon (in an unsuccessful attempt to blow the vermin to their deaths). In the end, Silaqui finished off her ettercap with another well-placed arrow, and her brother Turin vanquished its giant spider companion with a Force Missile.
The party descended further and noticed (with much dismay on Silaqui’s part) that the webs were becoming more and more active. As they climbed the stairs, Draken (still in the lead) observed that Nargrym’s story continued, and read it aloud to his friends: apparently, Nargrym had acquired a magical, steel hand which allowed him to wield giant-sized weapons. In addition, the dwarf had a shirt of scale-mail crafted for himself, made entirely from the fingernails of giants he’d slain during his illustrious giantslaying career. Asa was remarking on the peculiar choice of materials for armor when they heard a blood-curdling shriek coming from below them: “Interlopers! Get out of my uncle’s tomb at once! Begone!” the dwarf fighter-cleric spotted a terrifying monster on a second landing, about 10 feet below them, which Draken described as a strange, female, half-dwarf/half-spider. Suddenly, with a wave of one of its appendanges, a curtain of webs flew at Draken, just missing him.
Meanwhile, another ettercap—hidden beneath the stairs—sprung up and attacked Silaqui, thankfully missing her with its poisonous fangs. Draken closed the distance between him and the strange, half-dwarf, and struck at her with his magic hammer, the dwarven artifact Agrimmosh. The creature ducked, and he missed! Given the narrowness of the stairs and the landing, much of the rest of the party (eg Asa, Kingsley, and Toboe) were unable to attack, and had to either hold their actions, or had to spend a round switching out their melee weapons for missile weapons. The next round, the creature bit Draken in the shoulder, but he made his Fortitude saving throw, and shrugged off her poison. The two traded blows for several rounds—Draken hit the creature three times, but got badly scratched by the creature’s claws in the process. Silaqui backed him up by firing a series of arrows at her from the stairs.
Jane, meanwhile, filled her ettercap consort with arrows, killing it. Putting down her bow momentarily, the elven Druid asked the half-spider dwarven creature, “Why are you attacking us?” But before she could answer, Gydion put the hateful, hybrid aberration out of its misery with a Scorching Ray
, igniting the webs around it. Earlier in the battle, the Druid had also lobbed some fiery missiles with the Produce Flame
spell he’d cast earlier. They’d missed, and ignited other webs deep, down below—so the entire stairwell was rapidly filling with thick smoke, forcing the heroes to scurry upwards for air.
After a few minutes, the smoke cleared, and they returned to loot the hybrid’s body. They turned up a magic amulet, which Turin identified as an Amulet of Mighty Fists +1 (which bequeaths its bonus to unarmed attacks). Curiously, they also discovered a spell component pouch filled with Druidic material components—for example, mistletoe and holly. Jane and Gydion looked at each other—might this wretched creature have been a Druid? The two said a quick, Druidic prayer over its hybrid body and steeled themselves for what lay ahead.
Draken led the group down 40 more feet, where they found the bottom of the smoky shaft. As they descended down the final staircase, Draken read the tragic, final chapter of Nargrym’s biography, engraved in runes upon the staircase walls:
Nargrym’s final and most well-known victory was over the infamous fire giant Gunderoth, called “Dwarfskinner”, who scorched the living flesh from nearly 30 dwarven miners. Nargrym’s win was short-lived, however. After Gunderoth’s defeat, Nargrym’s own squire and kinsman, Lokmorr Edergun, cravenly stabbed Nargrym in the back out of spite and jealousy. Lokmorr took credit for slaying the giant himself, claiming it had killed Nargrym, and was heralded as a hero. But a priest of the dwarven god of the forge, Torag, named Byrim Forgepride, discovered Lokmorr’s crime and confronted the kinslayer about his betrayal and deception. Believing he might still pull off his ruse, Lokmorr turned upon the priest and slew him as well. Although Lokmorr tried again to cover up his dark deeds, he was unsuccessful, and the ruling council of the dwarven Sky Citadel Janderhoff (Nargrym and Lokmorr’s home) branded his forehead with the mark of the betrayer, struck his family name from the dwarven histories, and sentenced Lokmorr to be trapped alive in the tomb of the hero he had murdered.
The half-spider, half-dwarf creature had mentioned her “uncle”, and they’d assumed she’d meant Nargrym. But had she actually been referring to Lokmorr? “I guess we’ll never know,” pondered Jane, and Toboe whined in commiseration.
Draken and the others, meanwhile, were busy exploring the small chamber at the bottom of the stairs. A disk-shaped door, flush with the stone around it—and without hinges—was set in the center of the eastern wall. Above the door a Dwarven sentence was engraved. Draken translated: “Touch upon thy son’s blessings, and enter.” Upon the door itself were engraved three ancient Dwarven runes, which Draken translated as Loyalty, Duty, and Strength.
While Turin (the scholar among the group), Draken, and Silaqui struggled to make sense of the writing, Jane explored the western end of the chamber. She discovered two badly burned corpses, wrapped in the scorched remains of gossamer webbing. No clues to their identities had survived the fire, although given their stature, she concluded they were probably dwarves. Toboe confirmed this with his Scent ability.
“I’ve got it!” exclaimed Turin. “According to Dwarven legend, the great god Torag had three sons, who represented the qualities of Loyalty, Duty and Strength, respectively.” The group discussed the best way forward. They decided to try having different party members touch the runes. This produced no response, however, so Jane touched a rune and said “Nargrym Steelhand”. Suddenly, the rune flashed, and a jet of blue flame shot towards her forehead. When she turned around, there was a dwarven rune tattooed upon her brow! “THIEF” read Draken aloud. “The dwarves of Janderhoff clearly don’t abide tomb raiders!” He smiled. Try as they might, Draken couldn’t remove the mark from his sister’s head. “We’ll see if Tyari can get rid of it with Remove Curse,” Asa offered.
The others, meanwhile, were already back to figuring out the runes on the door. “Let’s try touching each rune, while at the same time speaking the name of the son who represents that quality,” Silaqui suggested. Draken, Gydion and Asa did the honors—and the door opened, sliding silently into the wall. Draken entered the dark, musty chamber within, the others following closely on his heels.
They found themselves within a 30 × 30 foot chamber lined with pillars that was seemlessly carved from the surrounding stone—dwarven architecture. Every surface was covered with dust; it appeared that noone had set foot here in many years. Curiously, the floor in the center of the room was comprised of opaque glass. Gydion put one foot on the panel, and, finding it held his weight, walked across it. Two doors, opposite each other, provided the only exits from the room. There were footprints in the dust; close inspection by the elven ranger, Silaqui, indicated that they were made by a dwarf, entering from the north door and exiting by the south door. After Silaqui inspected it for traps, Draken tried the south door and—finding it unlocked—followed the tracks out.
When the door was opened, a putrid smell—excrement—poured from the room. The room was littered with dung, and broken objects—jars, boxes, canisters—together with rocks torn from the walls. Then, an agonized wail abruptly broke the silence! The yell struck feaer in into the heroes’ hearts, inflicting Gydion and Toboe (who failed their Will saves) with a temporary -2 penalty to their attacks, saving throws and skill rolls. The cry ended as the door on the east wall slammed shut. The party quickly crossed the room to investigate. Throwing open the door, Draken was shocked to see a hunched-over, twisted dwarf with pustules covering his skin. The dwarf’s left hand was made of steel, as was his armor; and he wielded a giant-sized spear in his hands. The dwarven rune for MURDERER was emblazoned across his forehead.
The ghastly, tortured-looking figure stood down a dark, narrow hallway. It growled: “I have been shut inside this tomb for 700 years! You have set me free. But first, I am hungry!” It lurched forward and grabbed Draken’s hand—producing hideous, painful wounds on the fighter-cleric’s skin! Draken struck it with Agrimmosh, to no effect. The two fought head-to-head for some time, with no way for anyone else to engage the creature because of the cramped quarters presented by the narrow hallway. Silaqui was able to fire a few arrows over Draken’s head, when Toboe lit up the hallway for her; but the rest of the party were unable to attack.
Meanwhile, Jane noticed the darkness growing—and taking on life of its own! Three shadows emerged from the corners of the foul-smelling reliquary they were in, and attacked. One reached for Kingsley, but missed; the other two connected with touch attacks on Jane and Turin, respectively—draining Strength points. Asa identified the apparitions as undead, and released an explosion of positive energy (= Channel Energy), causing 10 points of damage to each. Two rounds later, Jane and Turin overcame the shadows by summoning electricity: Jane brought down Call Lightning upon one of them, while Turin decimated the others with a Lightning Bolt.
Gydion turned his attention to the heated, dwarf vs. dwarf battle down the dark, narrow hallway. Lokmorr stepped back and struck at Draken with his giant spear, but missed. Draken struck at Lokmorr with his hammer, and landed a crushing blow, causing him to reel backwards. Silaqui Summoned a stirge, which landed on Lokmorr’s neck, distracting him [and draining him of 1 pt of CON].Gydion seized the moment and Wildshaped into a mouse, scooted by Draken, and emerged on the other side of the Betrayer. He then cast Chill Metal (using his Natural Spell feat) on Lokmorr’s armor. Lokmorr, still unaware of the Druid or his magic, kept his attacks focused on Draken. He grabbed the dwarf’s arm again, inflicting large welts upon his flesh! Gydion, still in mouse-form, ran through Lokmorr’s legs, and cast Flaming Sphere, singeing the creature and causing him to retreat into a corner to the north, his back now against a wooden door.
The smoke from the Sphere cleared away, and the twisted, evil dwarf noticed the little mouse for the very first time. Bending down, he grabbed Gydion in his hand, causing welts to appear upon the mouse’s little, furry body. Gydion writhed in pain, helpless to act—the sensation was excruciating. Shape-shifting back into human form, he stumbled down the hallway, and noticed he’d lost some Dexterity. He was assisted by Turin, who’d entered the passage a moment before. The wizard considered the situation: the battle wasn’t proceeding well, so he needed to end it—quickly. As Silaqui helped Gydion and Draken out of the narrow hallway, Turin cast Wall of Ice, entombing Lokmorr inside a 7-inch-thick frosty sphere! The Betrayer roared and pounded at the ice with his fists, but it did not yield. Lokmorr’s rage echoed through Nargrym’s Tomb as the Giantslayers regrouped and considered their next move.
Next: The Third—and Final—Act