OOC: Thanks, as usual, to Shimmin.
Gathering the gold into a loose heap to collect later, the party pressed on. A deserted pantry had been thoroughly ransacked by the departing bugbears, with only scraps of wheat left. The nearby kitchen had only useless, rusted utensils. Eventually, the party found a stairway leading up, next to an iron-banded door that exuded a faint tingle of magic. Preferring not to leave a possible threat behind them, they decided to try and open it.
Scabbard recalled a conversation with his half-brother about enchanted locks, where Vaclav mentioned that although many common types made lockpicking impossible, they couldn’t do anything short of smashing down the whole door. With Vaclav off receiving treatment, there was no way to dispel the charms, but perhaps the others could still break through. However, the bands seemed recent – perhaps the work of the bugbears? The party weren’t sure whether it was wise to try and get in, if the bugbears were scared enough of whatever was inside to ward the door. It depended very much on what the threat might be.
As they disputed, a very faint voice came from beyond the doors. It sounds at the point of death – or perhaps beyond.
“Help us… prisoners… starving…”
They wondered whether, even if it was a monster, it would be best to go in and destroy it. Jack worried that he might have a supernatural mandate to open the door, due to the Keeper’s hatred of imprisonment and slavery. Scabbard glanced at the door, span on his heel and delivered a kick that sent the whole thing spinning off its hinges. Inside, the party saw four ghouls, which licked their chops, grinned, and murmured “fresh meat!”. Jack rolled his eyes and hefted his morningstar. Gripping her holy symbol, Vana bellowed the Smith’s curse upon them and the creatures fled in abject terror, though one was hacked down as it ran. They followed the creatures down into the cellar, and a horrific stench washed over them, leaving all but the hardy Vana gagging.
With nowhere else to run, the creatures overcame their dread and fought back savagely, scratching and biting. A coldness spread through Jack’s leg as one sank its teeth into him, and his limbs seized up. Vana rushed forward to defend him, but she was also paralysed before she could strike the creature down. Desperately, Oswyn lashed out at it and spitted it before it could tear out her throat.
Unable to get a good line of fire, Scabbard snatched a phial of holy water from Oswyn’s belt and hurled it full into the ghouls, and one melted shrieking into a heap of bones and goo. However, the last and largest of the ghouls fell howling onto Oswyn and tore into him. He doubled up in agony as its claws sank home. Ignoring several injuries, Scabbard heroically fended the creature off long enough for the others to recover from their paralysation, and Vana healed Oswyn enough to stop him dying. Another blow from the ghoul’s claws sent Oswyn’s helm flying. Despite their best efforts, the creature simply would not die, until a sweeping blow from Jack’s morningstar shattered its skull. They stood panting in the cellar, surrounded by still bodies. While Oswyn bandaged his various wounds, and Jack’s gnawed leg, Scabbard’s eyes turned to various glittering objects littering the room…
A suit of dwarf-sized plate mail stood in one corner – hobbit or gnomish work, perhaps, but certainly without the fine touches of dwarven work. A shield seemed to bear some form of enchantment that’s protected it from the ravages of time, despite being crude of human make. Vana suggested that Oswyn take it, and he gladly accepts.
Heading upstairs to the first floor, the party found another corridor. Most of the rooms were uninteresting, having been cleared out by the bugbears. However, one room was clearly owned by the wizard – there was a huge portrait of the wizard himself adorning one wall, and many scuffed chalk markings on the floor. A trapdoor in the ceiling probably lead to the observatory Scabbard found earlier. Various chests, furniture and ornaments littered the room. Clearly, a wizard’s room would be a dangerous place to search, so they had to be careful. Scabbard slunk slowly inside.
Behind the wizard’s portrait, the assassin discovered a pouch of platinum coins and gemstones.
Unable to open the observatory door, Scabbard tried to clamber out and spy through the windows. However, it had begun to rain, and the stones were slick and dangerous, so he couldn’t get a good grip. After a few attempts, he swung back inside, reporting simply that he hadn’t been able to see anything interesting, to hide his failure. When Jack suggested that something small and important might be inside, he sighed and broke down the door. There are some astrological notes, which Vana can’t make much sense of. The wizard also seems to have been recording darts scores, and a board hangs nearby with four darts stuck into it – apparently he was using it as some kind of randomiser. Chaotic magic, perhaps?
Another room holds a large supply of magical components, and the acric scents of bat guano and sulphur rise to their nostrils, mingling with odd herbs and spices. While many would be hard to carry, they found a handful of large pearls that are easy to pocket.
The last room had the same magical sealing they’ve seen before. Scabbard barely glanceed before rolling his eyes and kicking it. The flying remnants of the door barely missed a mass of fragile-looking glass tubing and bottled potions. Eyes immediately turned to the bottles, but the wizard’s shorthand scrawls were utterly indecipherable.
Scabbard took out his assassin’s straw and straightened his shoulders. Most of the tastes were unfamiliar, but none appeared to be poison. However, as he sampled the last an overpowering urge to gulp it all washed over him…
The potion was a bizarre mixture of a potion of longevity and a potion of speed. The effects were decidedly unpleasant…
Scabbard’s body accelerated to a blur of motion, while his body began to unwind in time. After several painful moments, he found himself once again in a twelve-year-old body – albeit a very highly trained twelve-year-old. Facing the prospect of a second puberty, he began to curse.