As night crept over the Shunned Valley and shadows slid across the land, the party crawled inside the crypt, intent on finding a sanctuary for the night. After all, none of the neophyte heroes wanted to face a fully grown, blood-crazed owlbear in the dark.
Beyond the rockfall, the characters discovered a small subterranean complex. It was obvious the place had been looted before. A side room held mostly empty chests, but a thorough search of the area and the discovery of a brittle and crumbling once-black, lightning bolt emblazoned flag revealed a hitherto unfound pale blue gemstone. Another chamber held only faded frescos of a hobgoblin wizard smiting her foes with lightning and fire. The remains of a smashed statue--battered, scorched and somehow cracked as if exposed to intense cold--littered the corridor.
Beyond the statue's ruin lay--finally--a burial chamber. A sarcophagus stood in the centre of the room, and an empty plinth stood behind it, easily large enough to hold the statue found smashed in the corridor. The open sarcophagus held the skeletal remains of a humanoid clad in crumbling robes. Again, the place had clearly been looted, but the previous tomb robbers had missed the skeleton's plain clay amulet, which had a single rune carved into it.
A comprehensive search of the room was made while Theoden used his arcane powers to determine if any of the items thus far recovered were magical. It turned out that two of them--the hammer recovered from the owlbear's lair and the skeleton's statue did indeed radiate faint magic). While Theoden made these discoveries, Dimble was making others! He discovered a straight crack running along the floor next to the sarcophagus, and others of the heroes uncovered a line of 20 small holes piercing the dais's facing edge.
What Dread Horrors Lie Beneath?
The group feared some kind of diabolical trap, so Helmia filled the holes with ball bearings and mud. This precaution complete, Lion and Elmo--straining mightily--pushed the sarcophagus aside. Below it, a single paving stone emblazoned with a double-headed axe sigil has been set into the worked stone floor. This was eventually levered up to reveal a narrow set of dust-shrouded steps leading down further into the bowels of the hill. There lay more adventure!
However, by now, it was late, and the heroes needed rest. Replacing the paving stone and pushing the sarcophagus back on top of it, the group rested for the night and discussed their plans. All were eager to explore whatever lay below the tomb, and after a cold breakfast, the group gathered about the sarcophagus. Again, it was pushed aside, and the paving stone levered up.
Elmo then cautiously--and quietly--snuck down the dust-shrouded stairs. The stairs descended for about 30 feet before giving out into a complex of unknown extent. Here, the air was chill and the silence all-pervading. The rest of the party joined the heroic half-orc, and the group began cautiously exploring what they had found. Passages led away to the west and east; to the north lay what looked like a chapel dedicated to the hobgoblin god Malbut, complete with a bronze statue of the Lord of War himself flanked by two plain altars atop which rested a pair of battlexes. Getting into the chapel, though, seemed difficult; a rusting, close-set portcullis barred the only entrance, and it seemed only Dimble had a good chance of squeezing through the bars, which was something Dimble did not appear keen to do. Two viewports--akin to arrow slits--also pierced the shrine's walls, and one of these gave a tantalising view of an iron lever which might--the party theorised--operate the portcullis.
The Unliving Rise!
Eventually, heading west, the group proceeded along and down a long passageway punctuated by several flights of short stone steps. Statues of ferocious hobgoblin warriors stood in niches, and two sarcophagi--one crushed by a collapsed roof--filled other niches. Lion was keen to see what lay in the intact sarcophagus and pushed the lid aside. The skeletal remains of an armour-clad hobgoblin warrior clutching a battleaxe to his chest lay within. To Lion's horror, the thing began to move--shaking off the stupor of long ages. A brisk, brief and savage fight broke out; Lion was again injured, but the party's weight of numbers and some timely healing from Theoden carried the day. The skeletal horror was destroyed, and the party could continue.
As the party proceeded northwards, Helmia--one of the only heroes carrying a light source--noticed that the eyes of one statue glimmered interestingly--the eyes were small brown gems! The druid managed to prise forth one of the eyes but broke the other in her haste to remove it. By now, the passageway was widening and arcing gently to the east. Here, the party stopped to discuss their options: should they push on, retreat to explore the easternmost passageway, or attempt to get into the shrine to the south?
This post is a session summary from my weekly 5e D&D Edgelands of Darkness campaign set in the Duchy of Ashlar.