Having successfully made their way into the catacombs after battling a group of skeletons and dealing with several devious traps, the party finds themselves with their weapons at the ready, preparing to face an unseen foe just around the corner…
As Phlegm continued to screech and point down the direction of the hallway to their right, two hideously decayed undead dwarves emerged into sight. They charged the group, clawing and biting at them ferociously. Upon being hit by one of the ghouls’ wild swings, Phlegm fell to the ground, apparently paralyzed. Learning to avoid their claw attacks with even more determination, the party attempted to keep their distance. The fighting was momentarily interrupted as a familiar voice shouted from behind them.
“Hey bitch! I’m about to kick your old undead lookin’ ass!”
Kilran had arrived, and as he would later say, he showed up just in time to save the group from certain doom. It turns out he had “grown tired of babysitting the Governor”, and chose to simply lull him in to a magically-enhanced sleep. After the grouped finished dispatching the ghouls, Kilran informed Hogar that Escobert had requested his presence back in his chamber, as he was unfamiliar with the anatomy of a blink dog, and needed assistance in nursing Rolando back to health. Hogar nodded his thanks to Kilran and the group before jogging back the way they had come.
Going forward, the traps became even more dangerous, ranging from a hidden pendulum blade to a dangerous acid trap, the group grew increasingly wary. Ren even went so far as to use her new bag of tricks to summon a random animal, which turned out to be a giant elk whose antlers scraped the ceiling. She used the elk to break down a door in their way, but dismissed it before it came to any real harm.
Moving forward, the group thought they had found another door leading deeper into the catacombs, but Athanius noticed something seemed off about the torch sconces on either side. The thick layer of dust present throughout so much of the labyrinth seemed to be noticeably absent on them. Using a rope and a fair amount of dexterity, he and Kilran were able to use a lasso to tug on the sconces to test his theory, activating an acid trap that could have proved deadly to the party.
Unfortunately, for all of their efforts, the door itself turned out to lead to a space of absolute darkness, where not even Kilran’s magical driftglobe could be seen. As the group stared into the darkness, a ghostly and terrifying spectral dwarf suddenly emerged, claws outstretched towards them. Zephyrian and Athanius quickly pulled forth their holy symbols, causing the specter to retreat back into the darkness, shrieking angrily the whole way.
“Yeah…let’s not go that way,” chimed Kilran, to the apparent agreement of the rest of the group, as they all took several steps backwards.
The party proceeded further into the catacombs, encountering several more traps, including a giant boulder, a hallway filled with spinning blades, and an animated suit of armor wielding a massive axe. After defeating the suit of armor and its accompanying skeletal guardians, the group finally found themselves before a massive locked door, covered in carvings, in both Dwarven and Common. The door featured the names of four famed Dwarven clans, in seemingly no particular order. They used their sending stones to send a message to Escobert, asking his advice, but he seemed as bewildered as they did. Even Phlegm, the group’s resident expert on traps had no idea what to do, explaining that kobolds were more known for their traps than riddles.
As the group considered several theories, some involving the chronological order that each of the clans was founded, others involving possible relations to Escobert’s clan, they tested each one by pressing a finger to different names on the door. Each time however, the letter they touched would flare red and a magic missile would fly out from the door, sending the “tester” flying wildly backwards.
While the others continued to debate, growing more and more frustrated with each attempt, a simple solution emerged in Kilran’s mind.
“Hey guys, what if we’re just supposed to spell out the word ‘open’?” he asked, raising his eyebrow in his oh-so-dramatic way.
At first the group reacted with eye rolls and chuckles, certain that such a solution was far too simplistic to actually work…until they saw Kilran swagger over to the door and reach out to press his finger against the ‘O’ in the first name. Unlike before, the letter neither glowed red nor shot forth a magic missile, but instead glowed a light blue. Kilran looked back at the group and smirked, moving on to press ‘P’ in the next name, then ‘E’, and finally, ‘N’. The door made a satisfying grinding noise as unseen gears and cranks turned, opening wide the magically-sealed door.
Kilran soon lost his smirk however, as the door revealed a crypt complete with four animated skeletons standing before a dwarven sarcophagus of sorts. The light of Kilran’s driftglobe was reflected in a large green gem set into the stone of the tomb. As the grinding of the door came to a halt, a hazy of glowing green energy oozed from the cracks of the altar, quickly coalescing into the form of a mummified dwarf. The hideous dwarf sat up suddenly, a sword grasped in each hand, and looked around the room slowly, before resting his malevolent gaze on the group. As he stood, the party noticed that he seemed to be fading back and forth between the physical realm and the spiritual, sometimes seeming physical enough to touch, other times appearing completely transparent.
“Who dares to disturb the rest of Escobert the Undying?! Come closer, so that I might drain the life from you and add your pitiful weapons to my hoard.”
As he spoke, the four skeletons turned in unison, raising their weapons and preparing to attack. Before they did, Ren attempted a bit of diplomacy, thinking that she could reason with the vengeful dwarf, or at the very list, trick him.
“Oh great dwarf lord, we come at the behest of Tiamat, to…” she started, but she never finished the tale, as Escobert the Undying blazed with sudden rage.
“The Queen of Dragons thinks to steal MY treasure for herself? Over my. Dead. Body. I WILL KILL YOU ALL!”
At that, Escobert charged the group, wielding his twin blades with a deadly grace. To make matters worse, as the heroes fought back, they found that their weapons passed harmlessly through him as often as they connected. Zephyrian occupied most of his attention, while the others focused on eliminating the skeletal minions. Athanius called on Melora and unleashed his symbol upon them, causing them to cower and flee. Meanwhile, Kilran played a sinister and dissonant tune on his flute, one that he had only recently mastered which would allow him to briefly control another creature. As he played, the image of a twisted iron crown formed atop the head of one of the skeletons, a physical manifestation of the control Kilran was able to wield over it. Much to Kilran’s delight, he was able to force the skeleton to turn and attack one of the other skeletons, giving the party some much-needed relief during the battle.
As Zephyrian continued to fight toe-to-toe with the undead Escobert, Ren supported him with spells from afar, keeping pressure on the remaining skeletons to prevent them from coming to their master’s aid. At one point during their duel, Escobert called upon a dark spell to siphon some of Zephyrian’s life force away, growing in strength. Enraged by the spell, Zephyrian managed to land a devastating blow against the dwarf, causing him to stagger and retreat several steps back towards the altar. As he approached the stone altar, he reached his arm out towards the green gem embedded in its base, and appeared to be drawing some sort of energy from it.
Realizing that Escobert seemed to be drawing power from the gem, Athanius cast a shattering spell, causing a sudden high-pitched noise to erupt in the air above the tomb in a wide radius. In addition to disorienting the nearby skeletons, the deafening noise caused cracks to form on the large emerald, interrupting the stream of energy Escobert was drawing from it. The undead dwarf screamed in rage, almost as if in pain, as the cracks erupted along the multifaceted gem, before settling his hateful gaze on Athanius.
The ghastly dwarf closed his eyes suddenly and spread his arms apart wide, his twin blades crackling with power, before slamming them together with an explosive force that knocked Zephyrian off his feet. As the party’s vision cleared, they saw that instead of two blades, Escobert now held one massive greatsword, the blade black and ethereal. Before anyone could react, Escobert to leapt over Zephyrian in a frenzied charge, heading straight for Athanius. The surprised cleric held up his shield, but the enraged undead dwarf brought his dark greatsword in a wide downward swipe, seemed to phase right through the shield, before cutting through the outer layer of Athanius’ armor and digging into the flesh below, leaving a grievous wound in its path. The force of the blow knocked Athanius to the ground, where he lost consciousness.
Having seen how the mad dwarf reacted to Athanius’ shatter spell, Ren ran to the altar, as Kilran’s spell of confusion kept the skeletons occupied with one another. She approached the altar, and with just a quick glance behind to see Escobert turning her way, she reached a hand out to hover just inches above the large cracked emerald. As Escobert screamed in a combination of horror and anger, unable to get to the elf in time, Ren smirked at him before unleashing a deadly eldritch blast, at point blank range, shattering the emerald completely.
The ensuing explosion threw Ren back several feet, knocking the air from her lungs. But the pain she felt from that impact was nothing compared to the skull-piercing wail of terror that escaped from Escobert’s doomed throat, as the emerald revealed itself to be the only thing keeping the wrathful spirit linked to the Material Plane. As his scream dissipated, so too did his spiritual form, resulting in his armor and weapon to come clattering to the floor. The greatsword separated back into two smaller swords, as the magic combining them vanished. The two skeletons, badly beaten as they were, each also collapsed into a heap of bones.
Across the room, Phlegm poured a healing potion in Athanius’ mouth, causing him to awaken, sputtering, but grateful. Ren meanwhile had recovered her senses enough to peer into the shattered stone altar, to discover that inside it was a hidden lever of sorts. Ever the inquisitive one, she reached inside and yanked on the lever with little hesitation. The party prepared for the worst, as the sound of grinding stone filled the room. Fortunately, the hidden door that was revealed behind the altar was filled with treasure, rather than monsters. At last, they had found the hidden treasure vault of Escobert the Greedy.
Once the party had fully recovered their wits, they were able to determine that a powerful spell of binding had been placed on the vault, one which could only be dispelled by someone with the “blood of Escobert.” They sent Kilran back through the labyrinth, using a newly discovered secret exit, to retrieve the surly dwarf and inform him of their victory. Less than an hour later, Escobert the Red arrived in the tomb, along with a handful of his most trusted men. Reluctant at first, Escobert eventually worked up the nerve to cross the threshold into the vault, deactivating whatever magical wards had been set. Together, with a little assistance from Ren in the form of a Tenser’s floating disk, the group was able to cart out all of the treasure in just a few short hours.
Escobert assured the group that they would each be welcome to a magical item from the hoard, along with a few other select items, but that his mages and clerics would need the night to identify the items. He suggested they get a good night’s rest, before returning in the morning to select their rewards. The adventurers were quick to take him up on the offer, having risked their lives once more for the town of Greenest, a place they were quickly coming to see as a sort of home away from home.