Cast of Characters:
Sean, Level 1 Elf
+Waddell the Soldier
Sloth, Level 1 Prophet of Daog. Dyslexic.
Tuan Fen, Level 1 Fighter. Fat and ugly.
+Fluffy the Wardog
Vlad, Level 1 Hemophiliac Rogue
The group had met on the docks of the River Effluent, when Tuan Fen and Vlad arrived in Denethix bearing large bags of gold - gifts from their parents, who had grown rich from prior adventures on the far side of the world (Qelong). Sean and Sloth, and Sean's follower, the soldier Waddell, were hired on to carry and guard the gold.
In Denethix, of course, there is only one place to go to keep large amounts of treasure: The Bank Inviolable. The group looked around at the building's baroque vaulted waiting area, and especially curiously at the machine gun pods of the Custodians of Fiduciary Duty. The bank staff recognized a prospective large depositor when they saw one, and a functionary came out to take the deposit and explain the 50/month deposit fee. He nodded at the hulking Custodians by way of explanation.
However, Vlad and Tuan Fen wanted to sign wills to prevent the loss of their accounts, should either be killed. For this, they would need a legal notary. The functionary recommended Low, Ball, & Sleigh, a few blocks north of the bank. The firm charged 180 for the service, which they grudgingly assented to. Trustworthiness and expediency was worth any price. Less trustworthy, at least to the two rich adventurers, were Sloth and Sean, who had stalked the depositors all the way to the bank, making noises about wills and bodyguarding and their poverty. These went unheeded, but the four adventurers did band together in search of a good bar.
After an hour or so they entered Hursenbuck's, owned by the efficient bartender Mary Hursenbuck. Business was good today, as two heavily armored men named Terry and Phil were loudly lamenting the loss by ambush of the Temple of Science caravan they were assigned to guard.
Tuan Fen sent the pair drinks, and soon enough they had spilled the beans, along with a significant amount of beetle whiskey. They had been guarding a Temple of Science caravan when it was ambushed by a "horde" of Moktars near Chelmsfordshire, and they had dragged away the scientist Harvinius and a huge, heavy chest. Terry tried to negotiate for a cut of the cargo, but the four adventurers silenced that train of thought with harsh glares. Fleeing from duty, they agreed, meant the guards had forfeited their claim on any gold - leading the way to the Moktars was valuable only for redemption.
So they set out from Denethix immediately, passing through the town of Retennis and the small, depressed village of Chelmsfordshire. Terry and Phil led them to a location an hour west of Denethix, where the group found the smashed and charred remains of the caravan. A deep gouge in the earth disappeared into the forest to the north.
The Moktars had covered their tracks poorly, and soon the adventurers marched up to the perfectly-square entrance to what was evidently their lair.
Sean ascended a nearby tree, bow at the ready, while the rest of the group shouted into the cave. They heard no response but the unmistakable sound of tomato breathing. Sean lightly descended from the tree and Vlad was sent in to scout. This he did poorly, rustling very obviously through the dry leaves spread along the passageway. In the darkness to the south, two pairs of shining pupils looked back at him. He signaled to the rest of the group, leaned around the corner, and loosed an arrow.
Sloth brought his torch, and Tuan Fen brandished his battle axe and charged round the corner. As he stepped past Vlad, he heard a click and felt the ground give way beneath him - a pit trap! - but momentum carried him onto firmer ground, where he slew a Moktar with a single blow. Alongside him, a sling bullet and arrow killed the huge wolf the Moktar had been restraining.
There was another loud crack as Vlad overextended his bow and broke it in half (His third fumble in a row - and I admit I misread the crit/fumble chart, he should have just dropped the bow). The two pieces and nocked arrow tumbled into the pit trap. Behind him, he heard angry roars as two more Moktars advanced from the northern hallway. But these looked ragged, with bald patches and open sores. An arrow from Sean lodged in the left moktar's shoulder, and they retreated, around a corner and into the dark. The group heard more loud roars and then a door slammed shut.
The band regrouped and crossed the open pit, arriving in sort of a guard room with two doused torches lying on the ground. They formed up, opened the door, and advanced cautiously down the hall. This they were right to do, as Tuan Fen quickly noticed eight Moktars, including the two they had seen earlier, crouching in readiness along the wall of the next room. Having nowhere else to go, however, the lion-men were reduced to lambs lining up for slaughter, as the gang used the choke point in the hall to cut them down, two by two, until they were all dead. Even the hulking chieftain, awakened from a deep and terminal slumber by the din, was brought down - though he did manage to club down Waddell and give the soldier a serious concussion.
Terry and Phil had been no help the whole time, hanging back and offering only cheers and hollers as the adventurers waded through Moktar blood. Now they advanced to spit on the Moktar corpses and congratulate the adventurers on their help. This pleased the merchant Harvinius least of all, and he leaned up from a pile of refuse in the corner to curse them and order them to leave. He also told the adventurers to leave the room, or else they would die! (In 52 Pages, elves don't have dark vision by default, so Sean neither knows of nor can see the sick-light.) The adventurers learn of Terry and Phil's true cowardice while interrogating Harvinius, but he dies after a few minutes.
The group searches the room and the Chieftain's bed chamber but only find a strange lump of yellow rock. Suspicious that it is probably what sickened the Moktars and Harvinius, they decide to give it, along with some harsh words, to Terry and Phil and send them on their way.
The adventurers turn their attention to a strange metal plate in the floor of a dead-end hallway south of the Moktar barrack. Vlad sees a lever mounted in the wall next to it an approaches with a ten foot pole, and flips it up. Immediately the plate reveals itself to be the top of an inverted steel pyramid as it flies up and attaches itself to the ceiling with a reverberating clang, revealing a dark shaft. Vlad's weapons also respond, tugging at their clasps but with nothing like the force of the pyramid. The sensation recedes as he steps away.
Tuan Fen is sent forward to test the magnetic field next. As he enters the hallway, his armor begins pulling him up with increasing strength. Soon he's nearly weightless, and he's only halfway to the shaft. He turns back.
Immediately the gang strips itself of metallic weapons and armor, taking up Moktar bone-clubs instead. Tuan Fen selects the chieftain's huge two-handed ceratops femur. Sean tests his arrows, finding that the heads are small enough that the strange force doesn't rip all of them from his grasp - only a few break free and rise to the ceiling as he walks forward.
Sean and Sloth head down first, followed by Vlad. Waddell, dazed but ambulatory, is set to operate the lever if necessary, and Tuan Fen prepares himself as backup, if necessary.
At the bottom of the shaft is a small natural cave. At the far end sits a treasure chest - doubtlessly the caravan's! - and in the center is a naked, purpled human corpse. Sloth walks right out in the open to investigate... And two huge crab spiders drop from the ceiling. The first sinks its fangs into Sloth's shoulder, and he passes out from pain and poison. Sean begins loosing arrows, and Vlad gets in a few strikes before giant spider fangs find their mark, and he, too, goes down.
With a roar, Tuan Fen slides down the rope and counterattacks, finishing off the first spider and then attacking the second, much larger one, which had been wrapping Sloth's body with silk. (I admit to going easy on the party at this point.) Soon, though, he knocks the creature onto its back and sinks the Moktar weapon deep into its abdomen.
The survivors take stock. Sloth is alive, though it will take three weeks for him to recover. Vlad is dead, purpled like the other corpse in the cavern. The treasure chest's lock has been smashed off, however, and they are mollified by the discovery of 800 gold coins, and its inch-thick lead lining. They realize it could be used to safely carry the Sick Rock.
Moving the dead, injured, and treasure up the shaft, Waddell greets them raggedly and hands over a parchment he says he found on Harvinius' body. It's a map, to a nearby mountain, with the words "Sick Rock is key."
The party saunters out of the cave, expecting to see Terry and Phil waiting patiently outside so they can retrieve the rock and put it in the chest. Instead, they see (passing both Notice Detail and Hear Noise checks) the two armsmen leap out of the bushes, snarling with anger! But two drunk armsmen prove a poor match for Tuan Fen's recovered great-axe. Phil is beheaded, and Terry is grievously injured and locked inside the treasure chest with the Sick Rock.