PART 6: RETURN TO THE MOATHOUSE (Flocktime 578 CY)
6.1 Return Journey to the Moathouse (Flocktime 11th – 12th)
The bold adventurers — Erik (the mountain dwarf fighter from the Lortmils), Althaea (the high elf wizard from the city of Tringlee), and the brothers Godric (the human rogue from the Barony of Shiboleth) and Cedric (the human cleric of St. Cuthbert) – set off from Hommlet. They are accompanied by Zert (a rough-looking sword-for-hire), Spugnoir (a scrawny, pale Suel wizard whose voice breaks whenever Althaea is nearby), and Vick (a mule – named after the brigand who converted to the faith of St. Cuthbert shortly before being was savagely slain by a gnoll).
After a full day’s march, the party makes camp near the Moathouse. Shortly before dawn, during his watch, Godric notices a large crow flying in suspicious circles around the campsite. Suspecting a malevolent motive in the corvid, he informs the others when they awaken. Althaea impatiently destroys the crow with a magic missile. She then casts “invisibility” on Godric. The rogue scouts ahead to the secret exit to the east of the Moathouse (knowledge of which was provided by Vick before his death). There he spots a figure behind some bushes atop a stony hillock. Sneaking up unseen on the figure, Godric slits its throat. The figure turns out to be a gnome. (Perhaps this gnome was involved in ambushing the party days ago, when they were en route to Hommlet for the first time?)
The party converges on the hillock. They search the gnome’s body – Althaea even casts “detect magic” on the tiny corpse – but find nothing of note. However, upon the hillock is a concealed trapdoor. Godric casts “mage hand” and tries to open the door with it but is unsuccessful. Althaea casts “mage hand” and the two hands – working together in deft harmony – succeed in lifting the trapdoor!
6.2 Into the Tunnels beneath the Moathouse (Flocktime 12th)
Erik impatiently dashes up to the hole and looks down. The tunnel descends for twenty feet, with a rope ladder on one side. Below is a westward bound corridor. Godric descends the ladder and is soon followed by the rest of the band (except, of course, for Vick the mule, who is left behind tied to a nearby tree).
Cedric casts “light” on his warhammer – he aims to light the way for the others with the divine glow of St. Cuthbert. Godric scouts ahead of the rest of the party, relying on his ring of darkvision to see beyond the range of his brother’s bright weapon. Eventually Godric comes to two doors – one to the west and one to the north. The sharp-eyed scout notices faint purplish light seeping through the cracks of the northern door.
The rest of the party joins Godric. Straining his steely dwarvish thews, Erik pushes some spikes into the western door. Althaea and Godric work together again and use their floating mage hands to open the northern door. Beyond is a wide passage lit eerily with purple torches mounted on the walls. Three black-cloaked cultists stand guard. They start howling loudly, thereby alerting their comrades further north, and assault the intruders. Eventually six wild-eyed cultists appear. Combat ensues. Althaea casts a “web” spell. Zert finishes off one wounded cultist but appears to pull his blow against another. Erik is suspicious and shouts at the sell-sword to fight harder (or “I’ll smash yer stinkin’ skull in!”). But Zert merely laughs, noting that he actually succeeded in killing one of the foes, unlike the dwarf. Eventually three cultists are slain and the others flee to the northwest, out of the party’s line of vision. The party retreats behind the door and slams it shut.
Breathing heavily after the intense combat, Erik sets up his hunter’s trap and caltrops. Althaea and Godric cast minor illusions to conceal the trap and caltrops, and the party waits for five minutes before opening the door again.
A terrible battle follows. Nine cultists, two elite warriors, and a lieutenant wearing black plate mail adorned with the symbol of a burning eye all attack the party. The Moathouse forces are led from behind by a laughing, beautiful blond human who wears magnificent black plate mail, and wields a staff in one hand and a mace in the other. This, no doubt, is the baleful “Master” of the Moathouse!
Zert proves to be a knave and cruelly stabs an unsuspecting Althaea with his sharp sword “Betty”! The traitor badly wounds her. He then swerves behind her and tries to distance himself from the rest of the party, presumably to harass them further while the cultists engage them from the other side. However, despite her pain, Althaea manages to slay the vile ne’er-do-well with a well-placed firebolt.
During the subsequent combat, Godric casts a few “colour spray” spells, Spungoir launches a couple of magic missiles, and Erik caves in the skulls of the elite warriors with his deadly warhammer (in addition to battering a few cultists with one of the doors). A cultist steps onto the hidden caltrops and is subsequently slain. Others have their heads severed by Godric. The blond beast, however, swings his staff with deadly accuracy and force, nearly slaying Cedric. The righteous cleric is knocked out, blood seeping from his battered face. Eventually all of the forces of the Moathouse are slain by the party, except for the Master and one guard, who bash open the western door and then cravenly flee through it.
The party tends to Cedric rather than pursue the Master. The priest regains consciousness and heals himself further by calling upon the benevolence of St. Cuthbert. Erik smashes Zert’s skull into a gory paste before taking “Betty” for himself. The party loots the other bodies. Of special note is the black plate mail that they recover from the lieutenant. Althaea, as usual, casts a couple of “alarm” spells. The party then rests for about an hour. Spugnoir, hyped up on adrenaline, keeps guard.
After recovering a bit, the party heads back to the exit. They discover that the trapdoor has been shut and the rope ladder cut! The party decides to return to the area in which they encountered the cultists. They explore the rooms that had been occupied by the Master and his followers. The area is lit by torches burning with an unnerving purplish light. Supplies of dried fruit, hard biscuits, salted meat, and crates of watery wine are found.
6.3 The Chamber of the Master (Flocktime 12th)
With dashing aplomb, Godric picks the lock to the Master’s room. They find it to be a luxurious chamber. It is adorned with thick rugs, soft chairs, a couch, and the like. On a table are sweetmeats and bottles of fine wine. A brazier burns, filling the room with fragrant incense. In one corner stands a desk and chair.
On the far wall is a disturbing tapestry that displays a menacing skull. Althaea identifies it as the symbol of the dark demi-god Iuz. The wizard recalls some basic information about Iuz: he rules the realm that bears his name to the north, and he disappeared mysteriously for a few decades – only to reappear less than a decade ago. Cedric notes that the Temple of Elemental Evil rose and fell while Iuz was gone. If Iuz was not involved in the Temple’s activities a decade ago, what are his followers doing in the Moathouse now? The elf and cleric scratch their heads in puzzlement, while Godric and Spugnoir shrug and consume some sweetmeats. The dwarf gulps down a bottle of wine and emits a loud belch.
In a cabinet Erik finds some rolls of black cloth, a gold chain with five opals, and an alabaster box with a strange unguent. Neither Cedric nor Althaea can identify the moist substance. Within the desk the party finds a letter to “Lareth” – presumably the name of the Moathouse’s “Master” – from the Hommlet traders Gremag and Rannos Davl. The letter warns Lareth about some “meddlesome adventurers.” It seems that the merchants are not merely slimy money-grubbers but also spies in league with Lareth (now known to be a follower of Iuz) and the Temple!
[Campaign information and previous log entries can be found here.]