(Thanks, as usual, to Shimmin)
When the party returned the following day, the remains of the skeletons had been removed. On the racks where they were first discovered, something had been drawn in chalk. A skeletal human, in the armour of a dockyard guard; a skeletal human in the remains of hunting armour; a skeletal dwarf with a hammer. A divination, or a warning?
Vana carefully smudged her skeletal outline with a well-gloved hand. Nothing untoward occurred.
They proceeded to the locked doors in the basement. To his well-concealed amazement, Scabbard managed to pick a lock and carefully opened the door. Unfortunately, he was too distracted to notice a faint phosphorescence, much like that the party had seen the previous night flitting about the ruins as they watched from their campsite. Within the chamber was some ordinary furniture, and walls covered in finely-detailed chalk illustrations. More importantly, there was a figure of cloying shadow caught in the act of refining said illustrations, which on Scabbard’s entry, spun around and dropped its chalk.
Scabbard had the presence of mind to hurl a phial of holy water, which caused the wraith to steam and let out a screech. Jack’s dwarven-forged halberd proved effective too, the fine workmanship and minuscule runes shredding away coils of shadow. In revenge, the creature reached out and touched Jack’s replacement arm; which went numb and leaden immediately.
Vana blessed the bolt Jack was loading, but its holy enchantment seemed to revolt at being wielded by a criminal; the bolt flew off wildly, and Vana could only shake her head. While Jack staggered away, Oswyn’s spear struck true, and the creature melted away into nothing.
Meanwhile, Jack heard a voice – the same one he heard while his arm was replaced. The Keeper told him that the Wraith’s death-touch had been spread amongst his incarnations across the multiverse, and that the arm had gone dead to prevent worse consequences from befalling his other selves. The Keeper further told him that the aid of Chaos would be needed to revive his arm, and after a few moments, Jack told the others that he’d been told to seek out a hidden shrine of the Jester. Vana looked extremely sceptical, but was eventually forced to accept there’s not much she could do about the arm. At present Jack’s arm was useless, but he decided to soldier on and switched to a morningstar.
The wraith appeared to have been spending its undeath drawing parodies of the tapestries the party had seen in the throne room: its illustrations showed the Laughing Wolf breaking out of its prison at the heart of the world and laying waste to the planet, breaching the Moon so that the Fire could break forth and unmake the cosmos, and so on. Though there were books in the bookshelves, the damp conditions had rendered them unusable.
Another room revealed a bed, and scattered patches of damp. (A particularly damp patch under the bed suggested the wraith spent a lot of time hiding under there.) The outline of a secret door could be made out in the wall, badly concealed. Opening it, they found an old shrine of the Smith, of all things! It showed signs of elven work, and thus depict the Smith as an elf; this aspect of the Smith was slender, and could hardly be strong enough to wield the hammer it held, but was a promising sign nonetheless.
Oswyn strode inside, spear raised. The statue of the Smith turned to gaze at him, announced “Begone, interloper!” and prepared to hurl its hammer at him. Instinctively, Oswyn raised his shield to deflect the tiny weapon, but was spooked when the hammer seemed to grow in size as it span towards him end over end until it seemed a very meteor sent from on high. At the last moment, Oswyn leaped aside, but there was no sound of a cataclysmic crash; glancing around, Oswyn saw the hammer was back in the statue’s hand.
“What’s wrong, Oswyn?” asked Vana.
“Summat wrong wi’ it, Mistress Vana! Chucked his hammer at me!”
Vana stepped inside and waves the others away. The statue repeated its action, and Vana raised her symbol, intoning the most famous and widespread of the temple’s prayers. Though the statue continued its actions, the hammer passed harmlessly though her. She recalled that elven Smith-worshippers liked to craft elaborate illusions to protect their shrines, a point of some theological debate. It was, of course, deception; however, the elves argued that anyone entitled to enter the shrine would know of its existence, and thus only trespassers would be deceived. Vana disregarded this elvish heresy, preferring to focus on the craftsmanship, and beckoned the others to follow.
The shrine included a basin, which was of a type often used by the Smith’s followers to produce holy water. Seeing this, Vana explained that the party might have a source of weaponry against the vile creatures below. Scabbard muttered, not quite under his breath, that the Smith was a fat lot of good against the wraith, prompting a hard stare and a warning from Vana.
Stairs lead down into the darkness to another door. They were heavy wood, reinforced with steel bands. This part of the complex seemed to be in considerable disrepair, and the dust was undisturbed, but with wraiths in the picture this was not entirely reassuring. Scabbard ventured down to examine the door, but the party decided to leave it until they had explored the rest of this floor.
Unable to use the rusted locks of the entrances into final room, Scabbard and Oswyn tried to force one of them open. Oswyn was sure he heard a noise on the inside. He quickly motioned for everyone to back up, and they decided to leave this room for the present, as there was little chance of the creatures coming out to attack them. Instead, they returned to the courtyard and decided to explore the above-ground portions of the keep.
They found the bugbears’ chambers. In one was a stout iron chest, surrounded by drag marks – clearly the bugbears attempted to remove it when they fled, but it must have been heavy enough that they couldn’t manage it alongside their other possessions. Scabbard carefully examined it, then raised the lid. A pungent scent rose, and for a moment he suspected poison, but inside were blocks of a scented substance – six blocks of average-quality hobbit pipeweed, with two blocks wrapped differently that seemed like higher-grade stuff. There were also a number of gems inside.
A smaller chamber led off this one, and that contained another chest – this one hadn’t even been touched, apparently. Vana was suspicious, and used magic to examine it; a good thing, as she discerned a glyph of warding traced into its lid. She pointed it out to Scabbard, who froze in place and shot a look of mingled annoyance and begrudging respect at her.
Scabbard used Jack’s halberd to try and prise the lid open, causing the glyph to explode – though since the party had cleared the room so they could open it at a distance, nobody was hurt. Metallic objects rattle off the walls, glinting. Gold coins! The party set about gathering them up quickly.