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The Mouth of the Sleeper
A Bloody Prophecy

…continues from Book #01, Chapter #10, Scene #08

Synopsis

1st Day of Tarsakh in the Year of the Sudden Journey
Battling at the summit of the white face adorned hill in the Coilwood, the heroes manage to overcome a force of orcs and the reappearance of strange black creatures. Exploring the domed chambers within they force open a secret door, and are besieged by a statue. Dusting themselves down they continue to explore further below and stumble upon a bloody figure. The eyeless figure seems to have more than thoughts in its head, spewing forth more black abominations and the heroes struggle to overcome them before being left alone once more in a bloody chamber.

For a chapter summary please see Chapter #10 Summary.

For an appendix detailing the locations of “The Mouth of the Sleeper” and a full map, please see Chapter #10 Appendix.

Cast List

Khalin Grundokri

7th Level Male Dwarven Marshal (Warlord)

Kireth Majere

7th Level Male Half-Elven Arcanist (Wizard)

Tradden Aversward

7th Level Male Human Weaponmaster (Fighter)

Zero Uhlit

7th Level Male Human Scoundrel (Rogue)

Beltak Ancaron

Scribe of Pelor (NPC)

Scene Length

This scene starts on Saturday 10th January 2015 and is expected to be completed by the end of Saturday 28th February 2015.

Players are expected to be able to post at least once a day.

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

Tradden took a step back from the slow spreading ooze, sheathed his blades on his back and sank forward, his hands resting on his knees as he caught his breath.

‘I’ve said it before…’ he panted, ‘…we never… seem to meet anyone nice…’ He gulped in some air. ‘You know — “Here there, fellas, have some tea and scones, take the load off…”, that kind of thing.’

Straightening himself back up with obvious discomfort, he surveyed the room with a judder. ‘Ugh. I vote we rest — maybe get some sleep… but not here. Maybe back upstairs in that cosy little area?’

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‘Agreed,’ added Zero. Then he raised a finger. ‘But, I think I’ll just have a quick look around first, if you don’t mind.’

[Zero Perception Check: 1d20+11: 21] - success!

The room had perhaps not been the grandest nor most appealing before the melee, but now, with the bloody corpse of the human wretch before them and the melting pools of black flesh strewn across the many torture instruments and mechanism it was a sickly sight.

The only saving grace of the whole situation for the rogue was that the rapidly disintegrating corpses did not smell of rotting flesh, but of a mild savoury tobacco that he found almost a little amusing.

The braziers in the corner, with the exception of the one that Tradden had been forcibly knocked into, were still burning, and gave enough light and heat for the room to be comfortable, and for Zero to notice — perhaps only for the first time — the barred cells to the north and south of the room.

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Picking his way over the shattered remains of the empty coffins he decided to take a look at the cells.

[Zero Dungeoneering Check: 1d20+4: 13] - failure!

The cells were tiny, almost too small for anyone to lie in them comfortably, with a locked set of bars forming a door. None of the cells, either on the northern or the southern side appeared to have more than old dried bones and the rusty remains of manacles within them.

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With his curiosity satiated with the cells, Zero turned his attention to the centre of the room and the remains of the seer and his lectern.

The seer lay where he had fallen, cuts across him from Tradden’s sword and a bolt protruding from his neck, half stretched across the lectern with his arms still held by the chains. A pool of dark red blood had coalesced beneath him and the rogue contemplated retrieving his bolt for a moment before he spotted the book still open atop the lectern.

The book looked old from here, large and open, its pages covered in a messy crimson writing, legible even in the flickering light of the braziers.

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‘Kireth! You might be interested in this,’ called Khalin, beckoning the mage over to examine the tome. The warlord himself had little interest in the magical arts and trudged over to Tradden.

Surveying the grim scene, the dwarf nodded. ‘You’re right, lad. We need rest, let’s return upstairs and set up camp.’ Khalin’s brow furrowed though, ‘I still don’t like it here, the longer we stay the more chance we’ll be discovered.’

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Kireth took his time to approach the lectern — partly to take a good look at the dead seer, but mainly to show he was not at the beck and call of the warlord.

The mage poked the dead body with the butt of his staff as he passed, raising an eyebrow at the lash marks across the poor creature’s back and the lacerations around its wrists where the manacles and chains held it grotesquely to the floor.

Kireth’s main interest, however, was the book, that somehow had managed to stay upon the lectern during the melee, unaffected by blade, bolt, or fire. It lay open before him, a large tome that smelt sickeningly of blood when he got close, blocking out the taste of tobacco. The writing upon it was messy, almost illegible, in a dark crimson that the mage surmised dispassionately was that of the seer’s own blood.

‘“The last,”’ Kireth muttered, more to himself than to any of the others, ‘“Ayver’s ward” he said, “a warden, and perhaps a shadow and a light”. What was he up to?’

Tracing the scrawled letters the mage tried to find answers within the tome’s open page.

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Even for the scholarly Kireth not much of the text appeared to make any sense. The majority of the words were garbled or misleading or jumbled into meaningless phrases such as “eyes are the foe”, “looking is blindness”, and “only the dreaming eye can see the truth”.

Much of the early pages were crusted together, fused by dried blood, but Kireth managed to tentatively turn back a few sheets without damaging the contents. For a few moments he said nothing, reading intently, before nodding to himself.

‘The passages in here seem mainly to be visions this seer has purported to recieve,’ the mage began. ‘They will take me a little time to interpret correctly I should think. However, he does seem to have recorded some of the more, uhm, “mundane” I suppose you would call it.’

Kireth flicked over a couple of pages. ‘Here for example,’ he poked the book with a bony finger, ‘he mentions the coming of Skauril and his entourage at the start of the year, this year, so this seer must have already been here, and already had half a full book. He doesn’t mention Skauril leaving…’ the mage skipped a few stanzas, ‘…but here it does mention that the group, now led by Khase, plundered the “Sleeper’s Sepulcher” below, after something was brought to this place only a few days ago and taken to the “portal”.’

The mage shrugged his shoulders. ‘The writing doesn’t mention anything else about Khase, or the group, after that. The writing just seems to descend into chaos, but it does say “they came”.’

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Shaking his head slowly the mage looked over to the far western side of the room. He cocked his head slightly as he noticed the cage against the wall, the one that had contained a small flock of silent, half-starved crows, was now empty.

‘Curious,’ he uttered, before turning back to face the others.

‘What drives a man to have his eyes cut out, I wonder, for surely this creature has done just that judging by his words? Or perhaps some form of initiation rite?’ Kireth questioned, looking mainly at Beltak and Khalin, expecting Zero to be disinterested and Tradden to simply be confused.

‘What’s so important about eyes?’ he hissed to himself. ‘Cut them out, open them, chains on them, elemental ones, they’re the enemy — which one is it?’

The mage slammed down his staff, angry with himself for not knowing the answer immediately.

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Certain that the mage’s back was turned to him, Tradden caught Zero’s eye and made a twirling motion with one finger, pointing to his temple.

Stepping forward and taking on the role of father at the end of a day trip, the fighter spoke.

‘Yes, lots of eyes… and so forth. Something to sleep on perhaps. Shall we?’

With that he started towards the door.

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Kireth stuffed the book carefully into an oiled sack, before slotting it into his small pack.

‘So, what next?’ he smiled at Khalin, almost daring the warlord to make the wrong next move. He nodded at Tradden’s rapidly disappearing back. ‘He seems to have made a decision.’

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‘A rest is due, Tradden,’ Khalin said swiftly to the lad, ‘but we should finish our exploration first, lest the enemy returns in numbers.’

‘Come on, there are at least two more passages we should investigate before we take a break,’ the dwarf continued. Tradden’s shoulders slumped for a moment as he stopped in the doorway, but he paused and then dropped into step behind the dwarf as the warlord strode past.

The group headed back up the passageway through the rows of cells and past the junction they’d come down, heading east down the opposite passageway.

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Whether moving on in their battle-fatugued state was a wise move crossed everyone’s mind, not least that of Khalin himself, but the dwarf knew that they had to keep moving for now until they knew a little more about the area.

The last thing he wanted to do was to spend further time down this strange hole when he was still unsure as to what lay ahead. At the very least he wanted to scout the immediate area before making any decisions about a rest.

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Edging down the passageway he held his torch up high behind his shield, casting flickering torchlight down the corridor as it threatened to swallow any light. Nodding at Zero he ushered the rogue forwards, looking back at Tradden and getting the young fighter ready to protect their rear.

From the junction they’d slowed down, but it was only a couple of dozen feet or so before the tight corridor seemed to open up into something much larger, shrouded in darkness.

As Khalin’s flame lit the way before Zero, the rogue started to pick out some of the detail.

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The passageway came to an abrupt end before the rogue’s feet, Zero only just catching himself before he plunged his foot over what seemed like a precipice. The hallway ended suddenly at the edge of an enormous circular pit, vertigo making the rogue’s head spin as the poor light picked out a floor almost three storey’s below his toes.

As Tradden’s flame joined Khalin’s the rest of the chamber flickered into view. The other side of the pit could just be made out, fifty or so feet away, with another short corridor leading again into the darkness of a further chamber. Dominating the centre of this chamber, however, was a huge pillar rising from the depths of the pit, comfortably probably for two to stand abreast, the top level with the corridor.

Atop the pillar was some form of wooden or metal contraption — it was hard to tell in the spluttering light — that could only be described as a turnstile. Extending from three equidistant points around the pillar, perhaps five feet below its top, were titanic sickle-like blades, scraping the stone at the edges of the pit with their points.

From the cuts and gouges in the stone circling the pit it was fairly obvious that the blades must spin around, perhaps controlled by the turnstile at the centre.

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As their eyes became adjusted to the gloom, figures in alcoves to the north and south flowed to the fore and Zero lifted his crossbow almost automatically. However, his alarm was short-lived as Khalin pushed the crossbow to one side, his dwarven eyes picking out the detail much better.

‘Statues, my lad’ he offered. ‘Two in each alcove it looks like. Doors between each, too.’

The warlord looked down at the blades spanning the abyss. ‘It would seem they appear to be strong enough to walk on,’ he suggested, perhaps not as confidently as he would have normally hoped. ‘Only one at a time, though.’

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Zero peered over the edge of the pit, gulping at the drop to the stone below. The large blades didn’t quite seem to take his fancy either.

‘I vote we check the door,’ he offered quickly. ‘This way looks like it may be a one-way trip.’

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Tradden reached forward, standing up on tiptoes to look over the heads and shoulders of the others and thrusting his torch forward and down to get some more light into the room and the bizarre pit.

It wasn’t until the torch flickered and there was the faintest smell of burning that the fighter realised he had singed part of Khalin’s beard, part that was effectively tucked out of the way around his neck. The dwarf probably wouldnt even notice. For now.

‘Ah!’ squeaked Tradden, quickly moving the torch to back above his head, out of the way.

Khalin was a good friend and the human knew the right thing to do was to own up. Absolutely the correct thing. Deadset on that course of action, he astutely pretended nothing had happened.

‘Erm, ah, yeah… I’m with Z. Let’s check out the door to the south. Nothing is coming through here in a hurry. Maybe the door leads to an out-of-the-way but quaint Inn, or a bistro of some renown.’ He made a mock frown at Beltak, raising one eyebrow indescribably high. ‘Not all the good ones are in the main cities you know — some of them like the more remote locations. Adds to the atmosphere.’

Beltak simply stared, open mouthed.

‘Hey, you never know,’ finished Tradden, turning to check there was no award winning chef ambling down the corridor behind them, perhaps on his way to the start of his shift.

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Khalin nodded, completely oblivious to the faint smell of burning hair. The group were still recovering from the battle, and not in a state to tackle the machinations of some diabolical contraption just yet.

‘I think you’re right,’ he acknowledged, turning on his heels and heading back the way they had come.

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The passageway was now becoming almost familiar and the group, led by Khalin as the dwarf pushed past the young fighter, turned to the left and back towards the bottom of the spiral stone staircase, slowing only when he approached the door to the south.

To the dwarf’s surprise the door was not made of the solid wood the northern one was, but of a dark stone, itchingly similar to the carvings up in the dome above. Carved into the centre was a bas-relief, outlined in the spluttering torchlight, the stone itself appearing to glow with its own dull power.

It was carved with the same skill and grace as the first six of the seven tableaux above, illustrating a tall, bald humanoid with strangely pointed ears. One of its arms stretched out towards the door’s handle, its claws wrapped around a large keyhole. It bearing appeared almost regal, relaxed, and waiting.

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‘I don’t suppose we found the key did we?’ asked Zero with doubt in his voice.

The group looked at one another in the torchlight, Tradden shrugging his shoulders, before Zero sighed and turned back to the door.

In secret he was actually pleased. Another chance to test his mettle.

[Zero Perception Check: 1d20+11: 14] - success!

The rogue scanned the door and surrounding frame and walls with a beady eye before he went anywhere near that keyhole. Large, impressive doors, in his experience, usually protected something or someone large and impressive. Often they were doors to bedchambers, which always held something impressive in his opinion, although such chambers didn’t usually have such an ugly characters with long claws carved into the front. Not usually.

The bas relief was incredibly smoothed, particularly the arm and the claws around the keyhole, as though the stone had been rubbed over countless years. The rest of the door was solid stone, probably a few inches thick judging by the width of the frame.

He noticed that dust and stone had built up in front of the door, perhaps an indication that it had not been opened in quite some time. He knew some bedchamber doors that didn’t have the opportunity to get opened very much either.

Marks on the stone frame, but not on the door itself, seemed to indicate that someone or something had perhaps tried to use a crowbar, or something similar, to prise the door open. A folly in the rogue’s opinion, judging by the quality of the door.

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‘Maybe no-one found the key,’ Zero offered, pointing at the marks on the frame. Almost a little excitedly he added, ‘Maybe it hasn’t been opened in ages?’

‘Looks to be orc or goblin work to me,’ suggested Khalin, looking at the marks. ‘Those greenskins are pretty coarse at stuff like that from what we’ve seen so far. They’re brutes more than artificers.’

Zero nodded, although in truth he was already focused on the keyhole and the clawed hand rather than listening to Khalin.

[Zero Pereption Check - Find Traps: 1d20+11+2: 31] - success!

The rogue’s hands, laden with tools from his pack, hovered above the keyhole for a moment before he drew back, a frown upon his face. Taking one small step back he then took a good look at the walls, before he showed his white teeth in a great smile.

Thrusting his finger into a nozzle hidden within the wall, he yelped, and drew it out. ‘Brr, cold!’ he hissed, rubbing his fingers quickly to warm them back up. ‘Frost trap. Magical.’ he said plainly, as though this sort of thing occured every day. ‘The key would bypass the trap, of course. No-one has the key have they?’

He looked again at the group in hope.

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‘No, no, I thought not,’ he said slowly, turning back towards the door. ‘No-one thinks to find any keys.’ He knelt down at the keyhole, as the others involuntarily stepped back. ‘Right then, my beauty, who made you?’ he whispered to the lock and the trap contained within as he went to work.

[Zero Thievery Check - Remove Traps: 1d20+11+2: 15] - failure!

There wasn’t really much of a noise, not even a click, not until Zero screamed.

As the rogue’s tools explored the inside of the keyhole the claws seemed to grab them, or at least to Zero that’s what he thought, and then a freezing jet of ice stabbed into the rogue from the sides of the hallway.

[Frost Jet Door Trap]

[Trap Attack: 1d20+11: 24 vs Zero’s Reflex (20)] - hits!

[Damage: 3d8+4: 16] and [Immobilized]

Zero fell backwards, frozen as ice, onto the stone floor, hardly moving. Beltak rushed up immediately and grabbed the rogue, who’s colour slowly started to return to his cheeks.

[Healing Surge]

[Zero spends two Healing Surges and regains 26 hit points]

[Zero is no longer Immobilized]

The rogue’s cheeks continued to turn red and his face flashed with an uncommon bout of anger.

‘Stupid, stupid!’ he shouted at himself.

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Shrugging off Beltak with a nod, he leapt back towards the door before the others could stop him, his tools still in his hand.

‘Don’t try to get rid of the trap, you fool,’ he uttered to himself sharply. ‘Just open the bloody door.’

[Zero Thievery Check - Open Locks: 1d20+11+2: 33] - critical success!

This time there was a noise, a grating as though a bolt had been slid back, and the rogue stepped backwards slowly.

‘There, it’s open,’ he said, a sense of victory in his voice. ‘I’m buggered if I’m opening it, though.’

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‘Alright,’ decided Tradden. ‘Let’s see if we can find that master chef…’

With that he pushed forward, opening the door with one hand and holding his torch aloft with the other.

Ducking slightly as he passed under the sill of the doorframe the fighter straightened up on the other side, holding the torch up high to see what kind of bistro would protect itself with a magical trap on the door…

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A stale, flat air greeted the young fighter as he pushed past the door, as though the room were breathing out after holding its breath for years. It ruffled his hair and threatened to extinguish his torch for a moment until it settled down, leaving behind a dry and dusty taste in his mouth.

The torchlight gradually calmed to reveal a triangular room, with Tradden at the peak, a vaulted ceiling arching away from the doorway to its highest point some twenty feet up at the wide end of the room, some thirty or so feet away, dim in the gloom.

As he pushed the torch forwards he noticed a figure at the far side of the room, coming towards him with arms upraised and the young fighter immediately dropped into a fighting stance…

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Khalin grabbed the young fighter on his shoulder. ‘Steady, lad,’ he said in a calming voice. ‘‘Tis but a statue.’

Tradden flushed. ‘I knew that! I knew that,’ he blustered. ‘I was just practising, that’s all.’ He made a few sword plays and parries for show.

The statue was directly opposite the door he had just come through, but on the far side of the room. It appeared to be a man with his arms and face raised towards the sky, similar in style to the broken ones atop the hill near the “mouth”. Flanking it on either side were two stone doors, similar to the one Zero had just managed to open.

To the east and west, leading out of this chamber, were wide archways, perhaps into other rooms, lost in the gloom and darkness.

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The young fighter was about to step forward, to usher the light into the archways, when he noticed the unusual markings upon the stone floor. It bore an artful pattern of raised black stones, a couple of feet across each, littering the floor of the chamber. To get to the other side of the room there seemed little option but to step on or between the stones. The nearest was only some inches from Tradden’s feet.

Lowering the torch he looked at the nearest by his feet to see that it was exquisitely carved, an eyeball looking out from the blackness, the channels of the carvings glowing ever so slightly. The others had eyeballs too, some looking up, some looking to the side, and some perhaps behind.

As the others came into the room behind him, Tradden was nudged forwards just a little more. There was a soft scraping, of stone on stone, and a puff of dust released from the floor towards the centre of the room. One of the eye stones slowly, but surely, rotated around to stare at the young fighter.

Then another scrape and puff and another from the side of the room rotated around to match the first. Then another, and another, until there was a short cacophony of scraping. Then silence. Only the silence of the stares of countless eyes.

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Khalin crept forwards from behind Tradden, carefully avoiding moving any further out than where the young fighter’s feet currently stood. Holding out his torch to join Tradden’s he studied the floor and stone walls, examining the architecture and stonework to see if he could discern any trap.

[Khalin Dungeoneering Check: 1d20+5: 15] - failure!

As the warlord moved forwards the eyes scraped into position to stare at him, small puffs of dust blowing up into the air as they rotated. Khalin did his best to ignore them, studying the walls and floors, but they were a distraction, and apart from convincing himself that the chamber was very old he could not sense any form of trap.

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Tradden, knowing that if Khalin was casting his experienced eye over the room he wouldn’t be able to add anything in terms of that side of things, instead just tried to take it all in and see if anything stuck him.

[Tradden Perception Check: 1d20+5: 17] - failure!

The eye stones were unnerving, but at least were not attacking him. The reminded him a little of the shell on the back of the turtles that swam in the bays around Deepingwald. Except those ones didn’t have strange carved eyes.

He couldn’t quite see into the other rooms through the archways, yet, though, as the torchlight was not strong enough. There wasn’t anything moving about in the shadows as far as he could tell, however.

‘It’s…’ the fighter began slowly, as if about to unleash deep insight and wisdom unto the world, ‘…a room… with eyes… in the floor…’

The sound of the faintest of snorts from what could only be Kireth wafted forwards.

‘What?’ snapped Tradden, losing his cool for one second. ‘Anyway, why is it always me that is first into the strange rooms?’

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The young fighter fumbled in his pack quickly, grabbing another of the wooden torches. Khalin looked across with a quizzical eye, but did not say anything for the moment. Lighting the second torch, Tradden turned back towards the room.

‘I’ve only got one more torch left,’ he said. ‘Let’s hope we get out of the dark at some point, eh?’

With that, he tossed the first torch out over the eyes, towards the statue.

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As the torch tumbled through the air some of the eyes scraped in their stone sockets as they followed the flight of the flame. Others kept their stare firmly fixed upon the group. The torch clattered into one of the eyes near the based of the statue, bouncing backward a little off its round shell onto another of the eyes where it stood on end for what seemed like an eternity.

Then it fell, onto the space between the eyes, with a crack. And a click.

All eyes were on the floor, some literally, but it was the ceiling which now drew the attention, startling the group for a second as a small trapdoor swung downwards and a noose dropped, twitching and swinging in the air.

Zero rubbed his neck with a large swallow. ‘So let me get this right,’ the rogue rasped, grasping the potential mechanism of the trap as he looked up at the ceiling where a multitude of small trap doors littered the stonework. ‘If you stand on the spaces between the eyes then a rope drops down around your neck? Urgh!’

Khalin stroked his beard and placed his palm on the young fighter’s back. ‘I guess you are going first on this one, m’lad.’

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The young fighter snorted. ‘At least no spears or darts or lightning bolts jumped out I suppose.’

The torch continued to burn across the room and faintly illuminated the entrance to the alcoves — neither of them appeared to hold any threat, or at least none from anything moving.

‘Stepping on those eyes won’t be easy, though,’ he continued. ‘If they move about whilst you’re on them you’ll have to keep your balance.’

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‘Now then, lad,’ said Khalin as he patted a hand on the human’s back. ‘Think of it as a wonderful chance to put your famed dancing skills to good use!’

The dwarf flashed what he hoped was a reassuring smile at his friend before returning his gaze to the unsettling sea of stone eyes.

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

‘Right,’ continued Tradden, realising that he had just volunteered himself. Nice one, Aversward, nice one. ‘I’d best go get that torch then…’

With that, current torch in one hand, shortsword in the other (should more ropes descend from the ceiling), he skipped forward, hopping from eye-stone to eye stone.

[Tradden Acrobatics Check: 1d20+11: 31] - critical success!

If he was performing some sort routine no one recognised it, but the fighter clearly knew what he was doing. At one point the stones started moving underneath him, but it it were as if he knew where they would shift before they even moved. As he approached the torch already thrown into the middle of the room Tradden suddenly dived forwards. For a split second the onlookers thought he had tripped or been struck down by some unseen force, but all became clear as the fighter threw the torch he was holding high into the air, towards the statue, and expertly sheathed his shortword on his back, mid roll. The fall forward became a planted hand stand, one flat palm firmly resting on a dusty eye, the other nimbly snatching the first torch from its resting place on the floor.

With a quick vault back to his feet, landing one legged on another eye stone, and then a further hop, skip and a jump he was at the statue. Casually leaning against it he held out his free hand, arm out straight. The newer torch, previously arcing through the air, fell neatly into his hand.

‘Ta da!’ he exclaimed, proudly, the whites of his teeth reflected the light of the two torches he now held, bringing an extra lux level or two to the ancient, dim chamber.

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

For a moment there was silence.

‘Does he always show off like that?’ whispered Beltak, to no one in particular.

‘Yes!’ came the quick and unanimous response from the three others, the combined volume of which was enough to dislodge another layer of dust from high up in the ceiling.

‘Bah!’ said Tradden, turning to look at the statue. ‘Everyone’s a critic. Now, let’s see if there is anything that might stop this floor from moving about so much…’

[Tradden Dungeoneering Check: 1d20+5: 13] - failure!

Tradden couldn’t see anything that might help him stop moving the eyes, neither of the arms could be budged, and not even pressing the eyes on the head of the statue made any difference, it was just hurting his fingers prodding the cold, implacable stone.

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

‘Oh, nine hells!’ exclaimed Zero, limbering up his not-so-nimble frame. ‘Just get ready to cut that rope, if I take a tumble.’

Then he hopped forth.

[Zero Acrobatics Check: 1d20+6: 10] - failure!

The rogue made it halfway across the stones before pausing for a breather, skillfully negotiating the turning eyes, trying not to look down at them in fear they would be looking right back. A quick wave back at the group and he was off again, but his right foot stepped down upon an eye that quickly whirled around.

He slipped, his foot sliding down the side of the eyestone and onto the stone floor to its side. For a brief moment, Zero thought he had gotten away with it.

Then, there was a click.

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

The click was not at Zero’s foot, however, the stone itself moving slightly without even a scrape. The sound was from the ceiling, as a hatch popped open and a rope descended swiftly.

[Noose]

[Trap Attack: 1d20+8: 23 vs Zero’s Reflex (20)] - hits!

[Damage: 1d8+3: 7] plus [Pull: Up] and [5 ongoing damage] and [Restrained]

There was a gurgle from the rogue as the rope seemed to writhe of its own accord, stretching around his neck and then tightening, before yanking him upwards with a jolt towards the hatch. Before the others could even react his head was into the opening.

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Tradden, who often acted without fully thinking but saw it as a positive (Kireth would likely disagree), was the first to react.

‘Whoa, whoa, whoa!’ he shouted, balancing the two torches on the outstretched hands of the statue.

With a further hopscotch of action the fighter was quickly to the stricken rogue. Seeing that the rope itself was now effectively hidden from view Tradden realised that the best immediate action was to give some much needed support to the fast choking-to-death Zero. Getting down underneath his fellow human Tradden grabbed onto the high quality pair of leather boots that were now dangling at waist height, stuck his shoulders underneath, set his own feet squarely on top of two of the raised eyeball stones and boosted up, as high and as strong as he could.

There was an audible, if muffled, intake of breath, and the fast-paced squirming from up above told Tradden that Zero was furiously trying to free himself.

[Tradden Acrobatics Check: 1d20+11: 13] - failure!

Had Tradden’s boots been as high a quality as Zero’s, it might have worked. Alas, they were mid-range efforts with a tread that had long since worn away. As a result, the downward pressure from the extra weight slowly but surely caused one boot to slip off the side of an eyeball. Tradden’s leg gave way thanks to the unexpected movement and both humans tumbled to the floor and the clicks of unseen pressure-catches echoed around the room.

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For a moment nothing happened.

‘Ackgh…’ coughed Zero as he sat on the floor, rubbing his neck. ‘What kind of… hackgh… rescue, was that?’

Tradden picked himself up, patting down his now very dusty clothes with a scowl. ‘What? Oh, sorry, Z, next time I will leave you hanging on!’

[Healing Surge]

[Zero spends a Healing Surge and regains 13 hit points]

‘Now, now…’ panted Zero, also dusting himself off whilst getting to his feet — he was almost grey with dust. ‘No need to be like that, my good man, all I am saying is…’

At that point ceiling fell in, almost quite literally, a multitude of hatches in the ceiling dropping open, suddenly. Through the thick dust that now filled the room all the two humans could really see were long thin ropes. Lots of them. All snaking down…

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

‘Aghh…!’ screamed Tradden, drawing his swords and unconsciously taking a slight jump towards Zero.

‘Aghh…!’ screamed Zero, pulling out his crossbow and unconsciously taking a slight jump towards Tradden.

There was then silence as they waited for the inevitable. But nothing seemed to happen. When the dust had completely cleared the scene was not quite as they had expected, but was something perhaps even worse. Instead of ropes looking to lasso them and haul them up there were instead ropes with bodies already on the end of them! Dozens of them!

No one said anything, neither Tradden or Zero or their comrades at the edge of the room. The chamber was quiet but for the creaking of ropes and the brushing of boney toes across the floor. It seemed clear that the figures that dropped were past victims of the noose traps. Their dry and decayed bodies hanging limply down from the old ropes. Some were nearly complete corpses while others were merely heads connected to torsos, the bones of their limbs having clattered to the floor in their cacophonous appearance.

The group were surrounded, even those near the northern door, the slowly swaying bodies brushing up against them in pendulous swings.

At this stage Tradden and Zero were back to back, weapons pointing outwards. There was no movement, however, apart from the slow creaking of the ropes and the odd click as a skeletal toe or foot clacked on the floor.

‘Er… timely rescue…’ croaked Zero, hoarsely.

‘Welcome…’ whispered Tradden.

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Khalin’s eyes widened at the spectacle that had unfolded before them. Sublime, ridiculous, but mercifully, the two humans were apparently safe. The dwarf used his hammer to shove the nearest corpses aside as he made his way over to where his friends sat.

‘Right, good work, you two.’ He surveyed the various doorways, apparently non-plussed by the macabre figures dangling about him. ‘Come on,’ he said, offering an arm to the duo to help them back to their feet and with one last look at the swinging corpses. ‘Let’s check out these side doors first shall we?’

[Khalin Dungeoneering Check: 1d20+5: 19] - success!

As the dwarf pushed one of the things to the side with his hammer he noticed that its rope did not appear to be attached to anything in the ceiling, but the body swung about as though it were.

Khalin stopped suddenly in his tracks as he noticed all of those around him were the same, swinging in mid-air with no apparent support. ‘What mischievous magic is this?’ he exclaimed, pointing out the floating bodies and nooses with his hammer. He continued more softly, as if trying not to wake some beast: ‘Kireth, what do you make of this?’

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The Mouth of the Sleeper

Before the mage had time to answer the bodies suddenly began to swing wildly at the end of their short unattached ropes, the corpses themselves flailing uncontrollably as if the rope itself were the master in the puppetry.

At first it was a few bumps and knocks against the group, but gradually the swinging became violent and soon the group were fighting for their lives.

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Scene
Completed

End

[…continued in Book #01, Chapter #10, Scene #10…]