The Lair is the third and final episode of the one-shot Into the Bowels of Vallenguard. It aired on July 10th, 2019.
Our intrepid group of Dwarves enter the vault of the Ironbraid Clan. They meet up with 3 young dwarf girls who want the party to play with their pets.
“The stone advises the shard in its mud to be sharp and sheer inside this vault. The mud inside would see thee weathered than shattered.”
Before entering the vault, Morag casts some divination spells and, true to character, refuses to share what she has seen. Helldust, the scion of the family to whom the vault belongs, chooses to lead the way. The corridor behind the door leads west into the darkness. There is some evidence of traffic through the area as they get further into the corridor, though the dust was not disturbed near the door.
After about 100 feet the corridor ends at another large double door. They’re slightly ajar, allowing a greenish light to leak into the corridor. They decide to try to sneak, some of them being more successful than others. Peeking through the crack, they see a high ceiling. There are glass rods that jut down from the ceiling and prove to be the light source. There are more double doors on the opposite side of the room. There are stone sarcophagi around the borders of the room with statues at their feet. On the floor are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of rats.
Yeastnor opens the door further, which grinds on the hinges. The rats scatter in response to the noise. On the north side of the room, they can see what appears to be a dwarven child painting one of the statues. As they enter the room, she turns and smiles with black, rotten teeth. “Who let you lumps in here?”
“Keystone let us in,” says Ragne. Morag clarifies, “He’s a friend of ours. He opened the door.”
Yeastnor asks how she got in there. She says she lives here with her sisters. Morag compliments the girl on her rats and she says they’re her friends. Yeastnor asks if she’s painted all of the other statues and she says she has. “I made them look pretty.”
Yeastnor approaches one of the statues. Most of them have been painted as if they’re covered in blood with grievous wounds. One has bright blue tears streaming down its face and there’s a large yellow stain in the pelvic region and a brown stain in the back. One has been wrapped in old ragged cloth and strategically stuffed to appear female. Morag says, “Oh, how pretty she is.” The girl says, “That’s me.” Then she tells them, “It’s not safe. You shouldn’t be here. They like me, but they hate you.”
Ragne uses his divine sense in this room, but there’s nothing that jumps to his attention. She says, “I shouldn’t be talking to strangers. If you’re looking for stuff, it’s ours now.. Morag says we’re not after her stuff. The girl asks, “Did Coldeyes send you? Tell him its our stuff now.”
Ragne asks why she’s living there. She says it’s her home. She says this is where they play and Ragne says there are nicer places to play. Morag inspects the statues and uses that movement to try to get closer to the child. Ragne says, “Wouldn’t you rather live in a place like Vallengard?” She seems confused. “Vallengard?”
After a bit more conversation, she says again, “They hate you. I think I need to go now. You really should leave. I mean… You should leave.” Helldust says, “I’m sorry, we can’t leave.”
“Why?” the girl asks?
“We need to find out what happened,” Helldust tells her.
“You talk to stones? You’re silly,” the girl says.
Yeastnor says, “It’s been corrupted from within. Are you corrupted?”
The girl continues to retreat and the rats follow her. Ragne tells her, “You would probably be safer staying with us. That’s what the keystone says.”
They realize that the floor is covered with rat feces and animal bones. The walls are covered with small tombs or vaults. Most of the ones near the bottom have been broken into, though the ones higher up remain intact. Dagmar says, “A ghoul has been in here robbing tombs.”
Yeastnor approaches the wall to look at one of the broken vaults. It’s full of dust and debris, but is otherwise empty. It doesn’t look like it’s been smashed especially recently, but not a super long time ago either. Yeastnor accuses her of breaking into the tombs. She says, “Ope, gotta go!” and she gets down on her hands and knees and sort of disappears behind one of the sarcophagi. Dagmar yells, “Rat,” changes into a rat himself, and follows her. Some of the bigger rats sort of sniff at Dagmar and don’t look particularly friendly, but Dagmar concentrates on trying to follow the girl without her realizing that she’s being followed.
Yeastnor keeps his eye on rat-Dagmar so he doesn’t lose him. The rats grow agitated and charge at the party. Dagmar continues following the path the girl took and doesn’t take any offensive actions. He finds a hole at the bottom of one of the sarcophagi with black roots coming out of it and realizes that there’s a similar hole in one of the others. Swarms of rats attacks Dagmar, biting him, and he immediately turns back into a dwarf. There are two giant rats inside the swarms, who also attack. More swarms of rats attack Morag, but bounce off her magical shield. Helldust applauds and laughs at Dagmar’s performance, then steps closer to one of the rat swarms. Ragne attacks the rats with his sword, killing it. Ragne then throws a javelin and kills another giant rat.
Yeastnor casts shatter in the center of the swarms of rats, playing a strident note on his bagpipes. Many rats die in horror at the sound. Morag casts a firebolt, but it goes flying off, her aim spoiled by her cackling laughter.
Dagmar casts a spell and the ground beneath the rats shakes, killing one of the giant rats and damaging the swarms. As the final giant rat dies, the swarms begin to retreat, squealing all the way, to take refuge in the holes in the sarcophagi. As they watch the rats retreat, they realize that all of the sarcophagi have holes in them, but the vines are actually coming out holes in the wall.
Dagmar turns into a giant rat and goes into the hole that the girl took into the sarcophagus. Inside he finds an empty sarcophagus and another hole in the wall. Twisted vines block his path forward. He tries to chew through the vines, but they taste bad, unnatural. He retreats and checks out one of the other sarcophagi and finds the same thing, that the hole is blocked by twisted vines. Thwarted, he turns back into a dwarf.
Dagmar explains that the passages are blocked by vines. Morag uses a pipe and a bit of gauze to turn into a gaseous form and flows into the hole that Dagmar pointed out as being where the girl went. The passage goes five or six feet and opens into an excavated tunnel, like a large rat tunnel, which is lined with the same black vines. About fifteen feet down the passage, she finds two branching tunnels and the one that she’s in continues forward. Morag drops down through the hole. The passage drops down again and then eventually comes to a Y intersection. Morag goes right and follows the passage about 25 feet until it opens into a dark space. She can see a stone bridge spanning a chasm. There’s a half open door on the other side of the bridge. The walls are covered with the same strange black vines. Another 20 feet down from the ledge where Morag came out is another hole.
Morag backtracks and takes the other branch of the Y intersection.
In the meantime, the rest of the party can hear what sounds like a child weeping in the distance.
Morag continues following the left branch of the Y and finds an excavated cavern. She backtracks again and takes another path less traveled by, which eventually horseshoes and branches off. All of these routes take her back into the original mausoleum. Morag exits the sarcophagus and, in her mist form, explains what she’s seen. She says, “The roots must have a source, something growing, something black and evil.”
Ragne goes through the other set of double doors. On the other side is the room with the stone bridge that Morag found while exploring the tunnels. A fetid smell rises from below and the cool air swarms with midges and bats swarm to eat the insects. On the other side of the room is another dwarven child. Her mouth is stained blue. “Hello hairy lumps with lots of bites and bumps.” Ragne asks if she’s Torgra’s sister. She nods. He asks what her name is and she recites a rhyme, giving her name as Gotka. Morag tries to stealth her way over behind Gotka, but she’s insufficiently sneaky and draws a threatening rhyme from Gotka. Despite the threat, Morag still flies over to get behind Gotka.
They ask her why she wants them to leave and she tells them in rhyme that this is their place and they don’t belong. Morag says, “Gotka, dearie, come here near me.” Instead of responding, Gotka steps off the bridge and disappears. Bats attack!
Morag casts a spell, injuring some of the bats. Storm clouds start to swirl in the room as Dagmar casts a spell. Suddenly, everyone is blinded as lightning pierces the room. One of the swarms of bats bursts into nothing as it’s struck. The bats swarm Helldust, but aren’t very effective. Another swarm surrounds Yeastnor, with about as much impact. A third swarm joins the one around Yeastnor and this time they’re able to do a little damage. More swarms surround Ragne and Dagmar, but don’t accomplish much.
Ragne swings his sword in retaliation and some bats go flying. Ragne backs up a bit and one of the bats bites him as he moves. Yeastnor yells, “Helldust, you look wonderful tonight!” to inspire her. Helldust flails around himself with his ax, but doesn’t manage to hit anything. Helldust attacks twice and kills a decent number of bats. Morag spins her quarterstaff around and connects solidly as she does. “Oh, ha! Bat-kabob. Dinner!” Dagmar takes a step back and calls the lightning down again. One of the swarms dies, but Morag is also caught in the blast. The remaining bats fly off to their roosts. Morag calls into the void, “Gotka, your friends are dead. Why would you force them to attack us like that?” but there is no response.
Looking around and not seeing any immediate threats, they decide to go back to the first tomb and take a short rest. Yeastnor fires up the bagpipes to play a restful song. The whole time they’re resting, they can hear laughter, crying, and other sounds echoing through the holes. When they’re done, they immediately go back to the room with the bridge. They cross it and go through the double doors into the Ironbraid treasure vault. There are two holes through which the vines grow. There’s a stone pedestal with rock debris around it, the remains of a statue. There are statues in each of the four corners, damaged by what some bladed tool to the point that they’re nearly unrecognizable. There are approximately 20 skeletons kneeling, facing the pedestal. They appear to have been inexpertly put together and are held together with wire and twine. On top of the pedestal is another dwarven child in the middle of constructing another skeleton.
She’s wearing salvaged armor and her eyes are a mismatched blue and brown. She has widely spaced brown teeth. She has a conversation with the skull, who she calls General Bonespurs. Then she turns the skull to face them and demands, “What do you want, interlopers? Kneel to your queen!”
Morag kneels. “A wise queen and such a bold general!”
The general demands, “Why are you here?”
Morag replies, “We are here to serve you, my queen.”
The general says, “You must pay tribute!”
Morag says, “What does your heart desire, my queen?”
The general demands weapons. Morag crawls forward and offers her daggers and declares her undying loyalty. The general says, “Tell your friends to do the same.” Yeastnor also pulls his daggers and lays them in front of the queen. Ragne offers his javelins and his rusty ax. Bonespurs says, “The queen is not stupid. All of your weapons.” Ragne picks his weapons back up and says, “I serve Torgra.”
Morag asks how they’re supposed to serve the queen’s army without any weapons. Bonespur says, “My sisters want us to kill you.”
Morag tries to convince her that her sisters are conspiring against her. She ponders this idea for a moment and says to herself, “What if she’s right?”
Morag says, “What is it my queen wants? What is her deepest desire?” Bonespurs says, “The first thing you have to do is kill those who won’t swear allegiance.” Morag says, “All right, you lot. You heard her.” Bonespurs says, “These two have insulted the queen.”
Morag uses minor illusion to mime casting a spell at Helldust, who screams and falls over, acting dead. Ragne also falls over as if Morag had cast a spell at him.
The girl puts General Bonespurs’ skull down. She closes her eyes and when she opens them again, her blue eye is gone and now it’s General Bonespurs’ skull. All of the skeletons’ eyes flash blue -- Coldeyes.
The skeletons animate and attack. Ragne attacks Bonespurs and smites him. Morag says, “General Bonespurs, it is time to die again.” She casts witchbolt, which hits him. Bone shards go flying and one of his armor plates half falls off, just hanging there. Bonespurs attacks Ragne, but misses. Helldust moves, goes into a rage, and attacks, landing two solid attacks with her mithril battleaxe. Yeastnor casts shatter into the target rich environment. Three of the skeletons shatter into pieces, bone shards and bits of armor raining around them. Bonespurs also falls to pieces. Six of the remaining skeletons are also destroyed. The remaining skeletons appear less coordinated now, but still capable.
Dagmar runs over, yells, “Shillelagh,” and smacks one of the skeletons. His staff radiates supernatural energy, which grinds the bones to dust. The remaining four skeletons also crumble. Yeastnor picks up Bonespurs’ skull as a trophy. He tries to get Bonespurs to convince Morag or Ragne to bow to Yeastnor, but is not successful.
Bonespurs had mithril plate armor and a mithral shield. Noticing this, the party decides to search the rest of the room. Dagmar finds a nice warhammer. Yeastnor trades his rusted ax for a battleaxe. Morag trades her chain shirt for some looted mithral half-plate. Ragne also trades his rusty ax for the mithril longsword Bonespurs was using. While Morag changes clothes, Ragne starts collecting weapons to take back to Vallengard.
As Yeastnor talks to Bonespurs, waiting for him to talk back, voices echo through the room. They come from the tunnel that leads into the darkness. They’re larger than the other tunnels they’ve been in so far, but are largely filled with the blackened vines, which seem to be helping to support the tunnels. As they follow the passageway, they realize that they seem to be moving towards the source of the vines.
The tunnel winds around until they reach a place where it doubles in width, then makes a sharp right hand turn. As they continue forward, the vines seem to get thicker and denser. About halfway down a 45 foot long hallway, Ragne feels something hit his neck and begin to burn. When he reaches back, he finds a little dart. He removes the dart and heals the damage. He tells the rest of the party, “I got hit by this,” and throws it on the floor. Morag picks it up to inspect it. It has a metal tip and she detects poison on it. Dagmar also feels a dart hit him just under the shoulder blade. They hear laughter behind them and Morag says, “It’s time for some little girls to get a spanking.”
Ragne decides to walk backwards with his shield held in front of him to prevent further attacks of this sort. Helldust gets tripped up by the vines. She rips some of them up, but she’s still more or less entangled in them. As she struggles, it just seems to make the problem worse, until Dagmar creates a flaming sword and attacks the vines around Helldust. They immediately shrivel and pull back from Helldust’s legs. Dagmar moves to the front and starts swinging his sword to clear a path. The vines that are hit by the flaming sword curl up and pull away.
At the end of the passageway is a 15x15 chamber and the path makes a sharp turn and heads back in the direction from which they came. As they move forward, they smell something weird, almost like ozone. Lightning flashes down the hallway. Morag falls. Dagmar casts absorb elements and soaks up some of the energy and Helldust only takes a glancing blow. Dagmar taps Morag on the head and wakes her back up. Morag and Ragne get tangled in the vines as they pause to deal with this attack. Ragne chops his way out and as he’s about to chop Morag out too, she turns into a gaseous form and frees herself.
Once again, the corridor widens into a slightly larger chamber, then turns back on itself. A vageuly humanoid shape steps out into the corridor, glowing brightly, and glows. Another dart plinks off Ragne’s armor. Morag decies to take refuge, as her gaseous form, in Yeastnor’s lungs. Helldust pauses, intending to speak to the figure, and fights off some encroaching vines. She realizes they need to keep moving, so she advances and says, “Who are you?” It doesn’t respond, just sort of bobs around and continues to glow orangely. Dagmar demands, “What are you?” It begins to speak with a little girl’s lisp, hurling the most horrible insults he’s ever heard in his life. This vicious mockery bothers Dagmar briefly, but he’s able to overcome.
They hear, “Oh, shucks,” and the light vanishes. They keep moving to stay ahead of the vines’ encroachment. They reach another larger chamber as the corridor turns back on itself yet again, but this corridor is a bit wider. It goes about thirty feet and then turns to the right. Yeastnor is hit by a weird beam. From Ragne’s perspective, it seems to come out of nowhere. The corridor branches off after about fifteen feet, but the branch ends in a dead end after about ten feet. At the other end is a small aperture that they suspect the girls have been using to attack them from behind.
Ragne feels some sort of spell effect as his body begins to seize up, but he shakes it off. Dagmar runs foward and tries to chop through the vines, which cuts through to a previous passageway. Dagmar backtracks down the hallway, looking for another aperture. He hears a dart fly past him, but couldn’t see where it came from. They all start hitting the walls, trying to find other places where the vines would give way into other passages. Darts fly past them as the vines try to entangle their feet.
Finally, Ragne notices where one of the darts came from. He points it out to Dagmar, who runs up and hits it. His flame sword clears the vines out and he finds a small passageway. Ragne leans down to look into the passage and can’t see anything, but he hears what sounds like the girls running away. They begin digging to widen the passage. On the other side, they find a new corridor. The vines aren’t as thick here. The corridor continues without branching and Ragne hears more insults being shouted from behind, but he keeps his cool. “Learn better words.”
The corridor comes to a dead end. In frustration, Dagmar slashes at the vines on the wall. They pull back and he sees that his sword made a scorch mark on something behind that wall that looks like cloth. Dagmar continues trying to clear vines away. The cloth tears and Dagmar can see an orange light shining through. They tear through the cloth and find themselves in what appears to be a cramped living space. There are tables and shelves, upon which are books and scrolls. There are beds, desks covered with writing implements and parchment, and other furniture. They hear someone say, “No! They’re here! Kill them. Kill them all!” The voices seem to be arguing with each other about whose fault this all is and their voices begin to change.
Morag leaves the safety of Yeastnor’s lungs and Dagmar casts some healing spells to improve her health, then she drinks a potion of healing, as does Yeastnor. They notice that the vines here have become more subterranean and less exposed. Morag digs out some licorice root and gives it to Helldust, who feels herself speed up.
There’s a curtain across a doorway on the other side of the room, behind which the voices seemed to be coming. Ragne casts protection from evil and good on himself, then charges through the curtain. On the other side, he sees a central chamber where the sisters lives and work. He sees two more chambers off the central chamber, similar to the one they came into. The central chamber is a vision of nightmares, riches, and death. There’s a cauldron in the middle of the room that gives off a noxious vapor. Ragne hears clanking from one side of the room.
Yeastnor walks through the curtain and can hear people arguing with each other from across the way. “Get out of my room.” Yeastnor fires blindly through the room. The bolt hits something and clangs down and someone yells, “I’m going to kill you. You hit my sculpture.” Another voice replies, “Shut up.” Yeastnor sings an inspiring song to Helldust, who runs across the room, and waits for a target. Dagmar charges out of the curtained bedroom and as far into the room as he can get. He pulls out a flask, uncorks it, and waits.
From inside the room they hear, “Fine, stupid,” and nothing else. Morag enters the main chamber and waits. She has the scroll of counterspell out and ready. In a corner, they notice Torgra hunkered down and trying to hide. A lightning bolt flashes across the room from the bedroom where they heard the voices, hitting Dagmar and Yeastnor. Dagmar casts absorb energy again. Dagmar chugs the flask of toad milk and yells, “Toads!” An army of little toads pop up in front of Gotka, who has boils on her face and is clearly adult now. He yells attack! Three of the toads attack her, trying to bite. Two of them are successful. Yeastnor dissonant whispers at Gotka. She winces and has to move away from Yeastnor, disappearing through the door they came in.
Helldust charges into the room across the way. There’s a broken sculpture next to the bed. It’s full of paint pots and other artwork. She doesn’t see any hags in that room, so she dashes across the central chamber into the third room, which looks like it must be Bosra’s room, given all of the weapons and armor. There’s a chest in one corner. Helldust hits it, trying to break the lock, but isn’t successful. Helldust hits it again and this time the lock breaks. Inside is an ancient box made of mithril. She opens the mithril box to find an exquisite mithril hammer inside. It looks as if it might have been forged by the gods. Looking it over, she’s convinced it’s the Hammer of Moradin. When she picks it up, she feels euphoria, feeling like the gods have blessed her.
Dagmar finds a cloth on the fourth side of the chamber that’s been attached to the wall. He hits it with his shillelagh. It falls down and behind it is a bunch of vines. He can see through the lattice of the vines into a room they’ve already been in. Dagmar takes a step back from the vines. Morag approaches Torgra where she’s hiding in the corner, but Torgra doesn’t move or react. When Morag reaches out to touch her, she disappears.
Ragne knocks over two of Bosra’s sculptures to try to get a rise out of her, but nothing seems to happen. Morag turns around and finds Torgra in hag form behind her. Torgra casts a spell, but Morag casts a counterspell and thwarts her. Torgra retreats behind a curtain. Dagmar feels a touch on his shoulder and miasma washes over his body. He feels confused and his reason is hampered. Dagmar yells, “Toads, avenge me!” One of the toads bites Gotka and wraps its tongue around her waist. Yeastnor turns around and hits her. Helldust exits Bosra’s bedroom and looks around, then runs across the room to attack Gotka, the Hammer of Moradin raised above her head. She hits Gotka with a dilapidated, junky hammer that’s barely fit for hammering nails, let alone anything else -- but nothing anyone can say will convince Helldust that it’s not the Hammer of Moradin.
The fight with the hags continues, with spells and weapons flying everywhere. Dagmar falls to a hag’s spell, fast asleep. When Helldust’s haste wears off, she’s overwhelmed with lethargy. Morag casts a spell and paralyzes Gotka, leaving her vulnerable to Ragne’s attack, which splits her skull.
The battle continues, with hags dashing in and out of hiding and the party unleashing everything they can think of at them. Yeastnor wakes Dagmar up. One of the hags disappears behind a curtain as she shouts, “I curse you all!” Ragne finds one of the secret vine doors that the hags have been using to move around these chambers unseen, but the hags seem to have disappeared.
They investigate the chambers, feeling uncomfortable, like something isn’t quite right. Their spirits are lifted, though, when they realize that the Ironbraid treasure vault is squirreled away in this chamber. They find suits of armor, one chain mail and one plate mail, made of mithril. There’s another suit of plate mail that looks fancier than the others. There are many mithril shields and weapons heaped around here. In their search, they find significant treasure in coins, gems, and collectibles, as well as armor and weapons.
After about an hour, the vines seem to be withdrawing and dirt starts falling from the ceiling. They realize that now that the hags are gone, these rooms are starting to crumble and they need to grab as much as they can and get out before they’re buried alive.