Besilana made her way to the opening in the west wall of the jail corridor and found what appeared to be a torture chamber. At first glance the place seemed long abandoned – dust, dirt, and cobwebs abounded. When Felicity brought the torch over to illuminate the room, however, the adventurers saw that several of the skeletons in the place were not old remnants, and some of the instruments and mechanisms had been used very recently indeed.
The paladin led her companions inside and began to inspect it for any useful telltales. After a moment, she turned toward Taliesin and said, “Cousin? These might be footprints, here. Can you make any sense of them?”
“Sure I can take a look,” he replied. The druid slowly moved to the south end of the room, studying the floor closely. “There is a trail of blood,” he concluded, pointing out a couple of drops.
Besilana followed him, trying not step on any evidence. “Huh,” she said. “It just stops?”
Furnok furrowed his brow, taking in the scene, then inspected the southern pillar. After a moment, he grinned. “Not exactly.” He pressed the pillar, which resulted in the sound of grinding stone as a section of it opened, revealing a secret passage. Inside the pillar was a shaft some thirty feet deep, with iron rungs set into the stonework for easy descent.
“Ohhh…” said the paladin.
“Nicely done, Furnok,” said Taliesin.
“Whooooooaaaaaaa,” said Felicity. "Are you sure you’re not a dwarf? Because that’s some serious stone cunning… "
Furnok smirked. “I don’t know from stone, luv, but I am a cunning linguist.” Besilana laughed because she knew it was a joke, even though she didn’t get it.
The halfling’s eyebrows crawled up her forehead. “A what-the-what? Can I be one too?” she asked, oblivious.
“Of course,” said the rogue, not missing a beat. “It only takes practice.”
“She is fluent in a few tongues already,” said Besilana, equally clueless. Furnok exhibited his mastery of keeping a straight face.
Felicity shook her head. “I’m so confused!”
The paladin peered down the shaft, noting an opening to the east at the bottom. She reported this to her companions. “I recommend that we take a breather and heal up before heading downward,” said Taliesin. Everyone agreed, and they settled down among the implements of torture, and the druid pulled some trail food from his pack to munch on.
Felicity looked thoughtful for a few moments before speaking again. “Guys? I suddenly feel like we may just be pawns in some kind of game…”
After a pause, Besilana said, “What makes you say that?”
The halfling shrugged. “I don’t know, I just felt really compelled to start discuss some personal things that may or may not be relevant to our current thrilling adventure!”
“I think I get what you mean,” said Furnok. “Sometimes I wonder why I possess knowledge that I never would have thought would be useful, but sometimes turns out to be. And I seem to have exactly the skill set that the three of you don’t.”
“Ehlonna’s game, maybe,” suggested Taliesin. “Except for Furnok here. I wonder why she put you in our path.”
The rogue considered the druid soberly for a moment. “Do you really think it is destiny?”
“You were obviously a necessity for our quest, so here you are.”
“Seems a little contrived.”
“I think that Ehlonna put us all together for a reason!” said Felicity. “Plus I’m really happy to know all of you either way!”
Furnok smiled at that, then regained his feet. “Shall we?”
“I’m ready,” said Besilana, leading the way down the secret shaft into darkness.
The rungs were obviously used with some frequency. The shaft deposited them in a narrow hallway that headed east for about twenty-five feet before turning abruptly to the south. The hall continued another sixty feet before ending in a stone wall with a subtle latch mechanism about waist height. Furnok glanced over the paladin’s shoulder at the mechanism. “The inside of a secret door, maybe?”
“Must be,” said Besilana. She reached for the latch, and at her touch a section of the wall opened.
The secret door opened up into what appeared to be an old crypt. The nearby niches were empty, but a few along the west wall contained splintered coffins, wrappings, and gnawed and split bones.
“Uh… are those split bones gnawed on?” Felicity whispered fearfully. “This seems like a bad idea…”
“This is the only way we have to go, right now,” Besilana whispered back. “Stay by me.”
“Wolves maybe,” Taliesin suggested softly. “Or gnolls.”
“Stay alert,” Furnok said unnecessarily.
Despite the rogue’s sensible assertion, the adventurers were all surprised by the foursome of slathering undead that sprung from crypts to attack! Three of them surrounded the paladin, while the fourth slipped past her to attack the druid. One of the ghouls slashed Besilana with its filthy claws, and she felt a chill creep into her from the wound. The ghoul on Taliesin raked him across the chest.
Once he had recovered from the shock, Taliesin shifted once again into a wolf, but this time it is much bigger, with bristling fur and massive jaws. He maneuvered past a couple of the ghouls, then put the sharp-toothed maw to good use on his attacker, tearing out a chunk of its midsection.
Felicity brought her holy symbol to bear and began to chant a prayer to Ehlonna to turn the undead! Seeing her goddess’ power overwhelm the ghouls’ will, she cried, “Don’t strike them at once, they will break the fear if you harm them!”
“I think you mean to say ‘Focus Fire!’” said Furnok. He readied his weapons and stepped up to attack the wounded ghoul, but the stench made him balk.
“Uh, yeah! THAT!” said Felicity.
Besilana hissed an Elvish curse at the ghoul that had clawed her, and sliced it across the chest with her enchanted blade. The paladin’s target snapped out of the divine trance and slashed at her ineffectually. The other three ghouls tried to flee Felicity’s divinity, and Taliesin’s jaws tore the throat out of the one he had already bitten. The remaining two ghouls fled down a hallway to the south.
The druid-wolf moved to help the paladin, tearing up the ghoul’s leg and tripping it. Felicity follows up the holy chant with a call for sacred flame, which narrowly missed the beset undead. Fortunately, Furnok’s rapier thrust took the prone ghouls through the brain, and it stopped moving.
“We should finish the other two before the prayer wears off,” said Felicity.
“All right,” said Besilana, laying healing hands on herself to knit her torn flesh and heading toward the passage. “I see them!” she reported.
“Keep them cornered!” said the cleric.
“They’re still fleeing.”
Felicity advanced with the light and held her ground behind the paladin. Furnok moved up behind Besilana and followed her as she advanced, sword and shield ready. The path was foul and damp and only about five feet high. The tunnel led to a noisome den where a heap of bones and skulls indicated the ghouls’ nest. The glitter of gold coins and a few other items of interest were scattered in the mess. Jagged rocks jutted from the floor providing the cowering undead with cover from the north. Fortunately, the chamber seemed to be a dead end – the ghouls were trapped!
Taliesin the Dire Wolf filled the hallway behind Furnok, and Felicity trailed with the light, making it clear that the druid’s current form was no longer ideal for the terrain. The rogue readied his bow, and Besilana advanced, steeling herself for the grim work ahead, raising the singing blade. Her slice bloodied the undead, which lashed out in retaliation. Its claws threw sparks off her shield.
The druid shifted down into the smaller form of a black bear and moved forward to the edge of Felicity’s torchlight. The cleric advanced with the torch, illuminating the remaining ghouls in the low, foul chamber and praying for another sacred flame¬ to burn Besilana’s target. It juked aside, narrowly avoiding the holy light. Furnok moved forward, trying to avoid the attacking ghoul’s attention as he did so. He succeeded and took aim at the undead but still couldn’t capitalize on his stealthy attack with the low ceiling and rocky cover in the mix. Besilana severed the ghoul’s arm, and it spat defiance in her eyes but still couldn’t manage to penetrate the paladin’s defenses.
Felicity’s sacred flame burned the one-armed ghoul, so Taliesin moved up to finish off the remaining threat. Trapped in a corner, the undead creature dodged both bite and claw. Furnok repositioned and takes aim again, sinking an arrow into the turned ghoul. Finally, Besilana buried Starsong in the ghoul’s skull, wrenching it free once the black magic departed from the fallen corpse.
“Nice. Gross,” said Furnok.
“Very,” deadpanned the paladin. She wiped the blade clean before sheathing it.
“Ehlonna be PRAISED!” Felicity exclaimed, jumping and almost clicking her heels together in excitement.
Taliesin shapeshifted back to his regular, much more wounded, form. “That was powerful magic, Felicity. I swear, I felt Ehlonna’s presence for a moment there.”
She beamed at him happily. “Thank you, Taliesin. Ehlonna expressed herself in the turning of these beasts, it was exceptionally helpful! But I feel a bit drained, it will take some rest to be able to do it again.”
The rogue smiled at the halfling, winced sympathetically at the druid, then gestured at the glittering coins on the floor. “On the plus side, I think we found their stash.” In addition to the coins, Furnok collected a vial of clear liquid marked with the holy symbol of St. Cuthbert, two potions, and a scroll case.
“Oh a container!” said Felicity, pointing at the scroll case. “I like containers, they are so useful, they can … contain … SO MUCH STUFF!” Furnok handed it to her, and she opened it to examine the scroll within.
“What is it?” Besilana asked the halfling, examining the clear liquid – presumably holy water.
“I’m not sure, but I can probably figure it out while Taliesin rests.” She patted the druid to comfort him.
“Well, let’s get out of this chamber first,” said Furnok. “I’m getting claustrophobic.”
They made their way back into the relatively less creepy crypt and settled in to count their hard-won gold and determine the nature of the potions and spell scroll.