A Nightwatch AAR
Lazarus Sturn slid the iron door aside. There was a deep grinding noise, then a gust of air, sudden and sick as a dying man’s gasp.
Beorn’s torch guttered. Hard shadows shifted on a dozen, steep granite stairs that descended into the earth and disappeared in the black maw of a stone archway. Chiseled deep in the keystone were the twinned Dwarf runes for ‘doom’ and ‘destiny’.
“Now that’s a proper entrance to a tomb,” Sturn noted.
Beorn’s eyes adjusted to the gloom. “Think he’d agree?” he asked, and pointed to a dark lump sprawled at the bottom of the stairs.
Details resolved in the flickering light: rotted clothing and rust-scabbed armor, the shrunken brown flesh of an outstretched arm reaching for a broken sword. A body, a crushed iron helmet, a leather bag and the scattered glint of spilled coin.
Whoever that was had died badly trying to get out.
Athar Illum opened his grimoire.“As portents go, that one is a bit on the nose, don’t you think?”
Marik hissed for quiet and raised his lantern as a faint groan sounded in the depths. A shroud of silvery cobwebs shivered at the top of the arch. There was a quick leathery rustle of bat wings and the echo of dripping water.
“New air,” the Mancer said after a moment.“Moving through the passages.”
Another moan, louder this time. Longer.
Marik fished a bolt from his quiver and loaded it in his crossbow.“If you say so.”
“Don’t matter what it is.” Beorn growled. He hefted his great axe and looked over his shoulder. “We didn’t come all this way to turn back now, right?”
“No,” said Lazarus. “No, we did not.”
Deciphering the clues they collected in the previous mission, our heroes located the entrance to the tomb of the Dwarf King, Alrik Steelheart. There had been some changes to the party in the interim, during the journey, but they remained steadfast in their purpose. (gold, gems, valuable artifacts… oh, and historical preservation and antiquities research. Education, posterity, expanding knowledge of the kingdom’s rich and diverse heritage. Very important. )
Once again, the layout featured important locations marked by tokens. Each of these not only offered valuable loot, but defeating whatever threat lurked in that area also allowed players to redeem its token for an automatic successful action later in the game.
LEFT OR RIGHT?
Stepping over the dead body of the last guy who visited this place, our heroes took the right-hand passage toward what was marked as ‘the library’ on their map.
Torchlight, footfalls, and hushed voices soon woke the dungeon’s occupants and straightaway our heroes were contending with the typical rat swarms and zombie mobs, all angered at being disturbed.
The Blades accompanied the Mancer toward the library while the Tracker and his faithful war hound Fluffy, watched the rear.
Elemental Fury, judicious use of Axe and Mace, plus a few well-placed crossbow bolts make quick work of the first waves. During a lull, our heroes investigate two, magically warded alcoves, answering the riddles that bound the spells, defeating the undead guardians, and snagging the first of the loot.
Confirming that the Tracker was still alive and watching their backs, the Blades and the Mancer ventured into the library itself. Guess they made too much noise; the Librarian arrived with backup.
More brawling, another Elemental Fury spell, and a hasty search of the shelves turned up several magic scrolls and two lovely first editions of the Necronomicon and Mirrors of Ash and Starlight. Signed, no less. How lucky is that?
Meanwhile, the back passage was suddenly crowded. “Ummm, guys? I could use a little help here.”
Weapons bloodied, backpacks heavier, the right hand passage was cleared. Our party carved a path back to the entrance hall, dealt with the last batch of standard dungeon dwellers, then headed toward the Tomb itself.
This side would prove to not be as easy.
SPIDERS AND SKELLIES AND WRAITHS, OH MY!
You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike…
Venturing up the crooked left passage, our heroes paused to search another body, this one crushed under a rockfall trap. While rummaging through the moldy wool trews and cracked leather bag, three arachnae drop from the ceiling – the same time the first wave of skeleton warriors clatters around the corner. The fight is on.
The party prevails but it’s fortunate our heroes brought healing potions.
Bruised, bloodied, the party steps over the last of the skeletons and enters the antechamber to Alrik’s Tomb.
And because sometimes bad luck is the only luck you got, promptly spawns a quartet of Wraiths, a Necromancer’s Apprentice, and a Skeleton Juggernaut.
Along with much cursing, hammer blows, axe cleaving, the snap-thok of crossbow bolts, and the last of the Arcane Blast spells. Even though Fluffy takes a mortal wound, eventually, the enemies fall and the final riddle-warded portal stands before our heroes.
I am born in fear,
raised in truth,
I come to my own in deed.
When comes the time I’m called forth,
I serve the cause of need.
What am I?
Once the correct answer was provided, the arcane barrier dissolved, the door unlocked, and the Tomb of Alrik Steelheart was open.
But our heroes are not the first to make it inside Steelheart’s final resting place.
There, a wizened Necromancer, a writhing Familiar, and a Demonic Champion are gathered around an ornate sarcophagus where the spectral blue of a Dwarf ghost projects partway through the lid. The air in the room hums with the discordant jangle of dark magic. Thick smoke swirls near the ceiling and there is an almost overpowering abattoir stench. A harsh chanting ceases and every head turns to face the interlopers.
Our heroes did what heroes do: they charged.
The Mancer squares off against the Necromancer, the Blades advance on the massive Hellspawn, and the Tracker fires bolt after bolt at the hideous Familiar.
Angry but unfazed, the Necromancer employs his evil-ized spells to deadly effect; the Mancer and the Tracker are wounded. The Demonic Champion pummels at the Blades, absorbing or deflecting blow after blow. Combat raged across the chamber, the smokey air crackling magic power, ringing with clashing steel, and fierce bellowing. The party really does stand on a knife’s edge.
At last, one of the Tracker’s bolts finds the Familiar. It shrieks and shudders in its death throes.
Perhaps the horrid sound distracted the Demon, who knows? Regardless of the cause, the Blades attacks finally strike home. It falls with a crash in an inferno of green flame.
On the other side of the room, the Mancer looses his last spell (Mage Bolt) and all four blasts hit the Necromancer full force.
Dark arts do not avail this twisted parody of a man. There is a crack of breaking bones and the haggard, odorous mage jerks back and forth like a jackstraw in a gale, screaming as he folds in on himself. A heartbeat later, empty green robes fall to the stone floor, trails of dark smoke wafting from the greasy, stained cloth.
The spirit of Alrik Steelheart lets out a sigh and sinks back into his sarcophagus.
The burial chamber falls silent.
*whew* That was a damn close thing.
The Tomb of Alrik Steelheart is secure, but adventure still calls.
Bloodied but unbowed, our heroes will be back.
Thanks for stopping by. Have an excellent day.
Nightwatch – Terror and Treasure in the Dark Corners of the World: fast play, open-miniature, simple, solid rules for busy gamers.