Sunday, August 30, 2009

Doomwatch Brass Golem

Armor Class: 3 or 0 [16 or 19]
Hit Dice: 9
Attacks: 4 hand attacks of 1d6+2 or 4 weapon attacks
Saving Throw: 6
Special: Facial mimicry, Electrocution, Weapon Rebound
Move: 9
Challenge Level/XP: 12/2,000

(S&W stats; OSRIC stats may be found in Monsters of Myth from which the text is taken and modified)

A brass golem appears as a metal humanoid figure with an amorphous face and four arms. It typically wears the livery of its master, though it may be dressed in other

Once in combat, the golem’s face takes on the smiling appearance of its opponent thus causing the opponent to make a save vs spells or suffer a –2 to hit due to being unnerved at the sight for 1d2 rounds. The golem attacks with all four arms upon an opponent, and may wield weapons (25% chance for each golem encountered) or
attack barehanded. It may focus all four attacks on one opponent or divide them among multiple targets.

If the golem successfully hits one opponent with all four free hand attacks, it may deliver an electrical charge to its victim inflicting 3d6 HP of damage (save vs rods for half). It may do this every combat round.

Once every 10 rounds, the golem may harden its metal and increase its AC to 0. Melee attacks upon the golem that miss by a roll of 2 while it is in its hardened state automatically rebound upon the attacker; the victim must roll to attack himself at -2 and miss in order to avoid taking damage from his own weapon. Failed missile attacks upon the golem while it is in this state rebound in a random direction. The hardened state of the golem lasts for 3 rounds.

Brass golems are usually assigned a particular territory to patrol. Any treasure found will be that of prior victims, and will be found scattered in that area.
Though rare, brass golems may be found in various dungeons built by mages. Unfortunately, the creation process has been lost to time. A functioning brass golem brought back to civilization may fetch a price as much as 30,000 gp; a disabled one is worth no less than 15,000 gp.

TREASURE: 25% - 1d4x1000 copper coins, 20% -
1d3x1000 silver coins, 90% - 10d8 gem stones, 80% -
5d6 jewelry items and 70 % - 1 magic weapon, 1 magic
armor and 1 miscellaneous magic item.

The Way To Doomwatch

The entire group entered the hallway and moved up with Hern and the Prince in the lead and Arbiddance and Qova in the rear. Once they reached the side passage, they stopped and focused their amulet lights down it.

"You must tell me where I can get one of those," the Prince muttered. "I don't like dancing by someone else's light."

"I'll make you one later," Arbiddance replied.

The passage seemed to end at a large iron door much like the others. Hern spoke. "Let's go a little further up and see what's there, and then return to this one." All agreed and moved forward.

Just past the right passageway, Qova stepped forward and felt something give under her foot. A light click accompanied it. Everyone froze, looked at each other, and then looked around at the walls and then the ceiling. They collectively exhaled, and the Prince grinned even wider.

Qova jumped when the iron door flew open with a tremendous crash. Hern stepped back and peered down the passage.

Through the door charged a large humanoid figure... roughly 7 feet tall and the color of brass. It had four arms, and each hand held a large sword.

"Heads up!" Hern shouted and took a defensive posture to receive and attack. He sensed the Prince drawing both of his short swords and moving behind him to take a slightly recessed position on his right. Arbiddance stumbled back a little toward the way they came. "Keep an eye out the way forward," Hern told Qova. "This may be an ambush!"

The brass creature stepped forward with alarming speed, its face a blank stare that morphed into a mimicry of Hern's face as it brought all four swords down on the fighter.

Hern was stunned to see his own face looking back at him even as he dodged two blows, parried a third, and felt the fourth bite into his knee. He stumbled a bit and switched legs to return a sword blow from his weaker side. The Prince lunged forward in a stabbing motion with both blades only to find them bouncing off the creature's abdomen.

Hern's blow seemed to gouge a gash into the chest of his opponent. He brought his sword down in an arc and then reversed its momentum to strike at the creature's crotch. Always been a weak spot in the past, he thought.

The creature retracted its swords, brought the left two toward the Prince, and used the right ones to scissor Hern's head. There was nothing the fighter could do except take the punishment.

The Prince parried one blow while sweeping his other sword against the creature's knee in hopes of tripping it. It didn't, but he sliced a severe gash into its leg.

Golem, Arbiddance observed from his position. It's a golem. Look how it mechanically it moves. But what to do... what to do...

Qova braved a look at the battle to see Hern flopping senselessly to his knees and bound for the floor. She grabbed him by his belt and pulled him back with all her strength. The golem took the opportunity to land two more blows on the fighter before he was dragged to safety.

The Prince primed his swords to deliver another flurry of blows before he felt himself also dragged back, by Arbiddance who shoved a wand past him and uttered a single word.

A blast of shocking cold shot forward and knocked the golem on its back... it's exterior coated with a thick ice. It floundered on the floor as the Prince lunged forward, pinned one of its swords to the wall with one of his own, and used his other sword to severe the golem's hand. He grunted when yet another sword stabbed deep into his back.

Qova stepped over Hern and into the fray with her mace drawn high... bringing it down on the creature's face (slowly forming to look like her own). She smashed it in with one savage blow.

And suddenly all was still.

Beyond The Middle Door

"A wonderful trick," the Prince observed as smoke flowed from under the iron door and back into Arbiddance's bottle. "What's its name?"

"As if," the wizard smirked, replaced the cap, and shoved the bottle into his side pouch. All eyes turned to the open middle door.

Hern led the way by shoving the door wider. Beyond, they saw a hallway that extended perhaps 60 feet and then ended. The walls, ceiling, and floor of the hallway were intricately carved on a level that spoke of obsession. No other doors were apparent. The four stepped in.

"I'm so glad you invited me on a little expedition into the unknown," the Prince murmured. "I'll try not to disappoint."

"I'd be more impressed if you kept the chitchat to a minimum," Qova glanced at the Prince. "I mean... you usually have something intelligent to say, but your idle talk makes me nervous." Even as she said it, it occurred to her that perhaps he was nervous as well, and that's why he babbled. Useful information, that, she thought to herself.

They stepped into the hallway and looked around. Arbiddance and Hern looked closely at the carvings on all surfaces and then looked at each other with a grim smile.

It was as if 100,000 drunken worms had decided to mess up someone's cement job. Almost impossible to trace one particular carved line very far before losing it, the depth of detail staggered the eye and made focusing impossible.

"Is someone hiding something?" Arbiddance asked aloud. "We should search carefully for secret doors here."

The four spent the next hour scouring in detail every square foot. In the end, after exhausting themselves, two were found at the end of the hallway.

"One leads on, and one leads to the left," Hern observed. "Now which way do we go?"

"I have an idea the one on the left ultimately leads behind our lair," said Arbiddance. "Let's try the one ahead."

The search had revealed a small swirl pattern that depressed and released the door. A smell of dank air and dust assailed their nostrils. They looked through the doorway and saw a smoother-stoned hallway extending on out of their light with a side passage on the right.

"Here we go," Herne smirked at his companions and crossed through the doorway.


I've turned comments back on. Comments are subject to approval and word verification. I'm sorry, but that's the only way to keep spam out of here. Please feel free to say what you want on any post.

Another entry tonight.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Scorecard... Can't Tell The PCs Without A Scorecard...

A private inquiry for some time back about what the PCs of this story look like prompted me to finally make this post. Below are images of actors who more than resemble our heroes...

So if this were a movie or miniseries, who would play who?

Arbiddance (played by Joe Montegna of Criminal Minds)

Qovakrisstia Darkhair (played by a younger and hotter Kirstie Alley... indeed, she was the inspiration for the PC years ago)

Hern of Kalmyr (played by Josh Holloway of Lost)

The Grinning Prince (played by... who else?... the great Tim Curry)

The Lord Falang (played by the subtly creepy Kyle MacLachlan)

So now you know who to think about as the story continues...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Definitely a history," The Grinning Prince spoke as he examined the walls. "This is, of course, very valuable. It may tell us more about Doomwatch itself and its origins."

He stepped back and rubbed his eyes. "That's assuming, of course, there's a connection between this place and Doomwatch itself." He looked at his three friends. "I think you're on the right track with that. Look here," he pointed to a lined off section. "This describes the tunneling that took the workers far from the arch... that's the one out front... straight into the heart of 'Daemwech'"

"That's Anayari," Arbiddance added. "Or it sounds like it."

"I think you're going to find that Doomwatch itself predates the Anayari occupation of this area. They may have just added to it here and there," the Prince mused.

The four moved south toward the fountain that had sent the first three on their icy adventure. They stopped at the archway and gazed at it for a few minutes. Before stepping back.

"We'll have to try that again someday," Hern muttered.

"Oh? And what if this time it lands us somewhere we can't get back from so easily," Qova replied. "We lucked out with that trip."

"Yes, I really want to try that Ak'Kori carpet of yours, Arbiddance," the Prince beamed wider than usual. "I've never seen one, let alone flown across the sky like a sultan on his way to the mountain."

They backtracked to the passageway that extended on the left. Looking down, they saw two doors, two passageways, and another arch.

The Prince slapped his own face and gazed at the others in light mockery. "Oh dear, another arch! I wonder if has any significance or if it's just holding up some dirt and stone."

The moved down the passage way and opened the first door. It led into an empty room. The first passageway led to another door and turned left, so they left that one for now. The second passageway was short and ended at a large door.

Arbiddance, looked at his hand-drawn map and mentally measured off the distance they had traveled so far. "If I'm right, and I usually am... that door should exit into the small chamber off from the main entrance chamber... the one with two doors. But there's not a third door there. So... either I'm wrong... which I refuse to acknowledge... or there's deception afoot."

Hern approached the door. It had a large brass handle on the left side and would open to the right when pulled. The fighter glanced at his companions to see if they were ready, and pulled open the door.

A recessed space of perhaps two feet was behind the door. Lined with brick, it held a large dial of three feet in diameter. The dial had three notches marked with a strange rune each, and an extended handle resembling the minute hand of a clock. The handle was raised a few inches from the face of the dial. The handle pointed toward the middle rune.

"Anyone have any clue as to what those symbols mean?" Arbiddance asked. No one spoke up. "Okay, so we move the handle to see what happens?" Again, no one said a word.

"Fine," he stepped up and gently touched the handle. He shifted it to the left and released it. A large groan and a slam echoed through the hallways, and the handle returned to the middle position.

"What in the hells was that?" Qova shouted.

"Something metal dropped," the Prince replied. "I think a door dropped somewhere. Qova and Hern went back the way they came; a few minutes later, they returned out of breath. "There's an iron door blocking the doorway into our lair."

Arbiddance raised his eyebrows and pushed the handled to the left again. Another groan, followed by a clanking met their ears. The two looked again, and the door was raised.

"I'll wager," the wizard said "that moving it to the right will do the same for the door leading here." He moved the handle to the right and was proven right.

After some time and play, he discovered that both doors could be secured at the same time.

"Now, why have both doors drop at once," Hern asked. "To keep something out, or keep something in?"

Qova made a suggestion. "I'll stand out by the arch, you drop both doors, and let's see what happens."

The rest agreed it was probably safe enough for her to go it alone, and she took her place in the entry chamber near the arch and waited for Arbiddance to work the mechanism.

After a few minutes, one door dropped, then the other. Qova looked around for any changes and almost didn't notice that the middle door was now slightly open.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Long Live The Prince

Allow me a page or two, Gareth, to explain the phenomenon known as the Grinning Prince and his relationship to your brother.

The Prince, as he is commonly known (and who knows his real name?), is rumored to be the scion of some self-styled Onrothic King or such. His family was executed in a power struggle with a rival clan and he would have been too had his nanny not smuggled him out of the castle in a hay wagon. The gangly child passed from stead to stead until he fell under the tutelage of Kagor the Blind.

It was in the training halls of Kagor that the Prince became one of the deadliest swordsmen in the entire March... perhaps one of the best throughout the whole Northern Kingdom. He served two years in the court of the Alpine Throne before he decided enough water had passed under the bridge, so to speak. He returned to the Onrothy and singlehandedly slaughtered the entire family of the warlord who destroyed his youth.

I've seen the Prince in action. While most fighting men tend to take blows and allow their armor or shield to protect them, the Prince wears little in the way of protection. He has the remarkable talent of not being where the blow falls... just a few inches to either side or perhaps behind his attacker in the blink of an eye. In fact, the only person I've ever seen draw blood from him was Qova herself, and that from a surprise right hook. More on that one later.

Regarding the Throne, I cannot confirm any speculation that he was, in fact, his Majesty's legendary jester/assassin known as the Mook. If it were proven true, however, I wouldn't be surprised.

It is the personal opinion of many that he is mad. Personally, I think it's an act, and I refuse to fall into his game of homely distraction. On the other hand, I make personal jabs at him now and then, but I would never think of truly upsetting him unless he were unarmed and tied to a column or something equally strong.

I think he intends to pay you a visit in the distant future. He and Hern were rather close... Hern once told me the Prince led your brother out of the Shattermoors when Hern was part of the ill-fated expedition to the infamous Red Mausoleum. Without aid from the Prince, Hern felt sure he would have died under the minions of the mad druid who lived in those parts.

The two met up here and there over the years. Hern returned the favor in a swanky tavern in Eac after the Prince had humiliated some farmworkers; the two battled their way out of the tavern and out of town with the local farms short a few hands the next morning.

I've rambled enough; I just wanted you to have some understanding of the character known as the Grinning Prince and the part he played in the death of your brother.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Grinning Prince Arrives

Construction for the house began quietly enough. Hern had acquired the building supplies from neighboring carpenters who were curious as to why he didn't want them anywhere near the project. After several wagon trips, the area near the hill entrance was filled with beams, planks, shingles, poles, barrels of nails and pegs, and stone.

Arbiddance sat on a nearby rock cradling the bottle as if it were a fragile infant. Qova stood further up the hill looking up and down the road.

Shit, she thought as she spotted the familiar figure trotting their way on horseback.

"Guess who's coming," she muttered to Hern as he finished unloading the last wagon. "Your friend, Smiley."

Hern turned to the sound of the hoofbeats. The rider crossed the ditch and entered their camp.

"I wonder," the ridculous looking man cried out. "Could you spare a cup of water? For the horse you see. He's not particular in what sort of vessel it comes in."

The rider was a tall, thin man with no apparent muscle whatsover. His head was too small for his body, and his grin was too big for his head. And he always grinned... even in his sleep, Hern once noted. His hands looked like butter paddles at the end of small handles... he stuck one out toward Hern, who shook it.

"I suppose we could water your nag with one of our finest crystal chalices," Hern quipped. "You, however, will have to make do with a trough."

"Oh, that's fine. I'm not too proud," the man laughed and turned to Qova. She always got the impression he was sizing her up for potential dinner based upon the glistening in his eyes. "And my dear Qova... how are you?"

"Well, I was fine until you lowered the tone of this little get-together," she shot back smiling. "You just can't resist fucking up someone's fine day, can you?"

"My dear," the man grabbed at his heart as if shot with an arrow. "Barbs from you are more precious than the sweetest whispers from an entire harem. Speaking of... how would you like to join mine? You'd want for nothing, I promise you."

"I'd rather kiss a naga, but thank you all the same," she beamed. Though it didn't seem possible, the man's smile grew even wider.

Arbiddance seemed to be napping against the rock, or at least faking one. The man cried out "Arbiddance! Still the life of the party I see...!" Arbiddance replied only with a middle finger.

"Yes, that's right. Do it again," the man mumbled through his smile.

"Prince, I hate to break this up," Hern interjected, "but we're about to build a house right where you're standing."

"A house? My word!" he looked quickly around. " I shall, of course, retire to a safe distance lest I be accidentally struck by a hammer or something like that."

He led his horse back across the ditch, unstrapped his mandolin, and began to pluck wildly at it as he bent his knees in time:

O Qova the darkmane
Can drive a man insane
With her gaze and her womanly wiles...

And nary a warrior
Can stand up before her
Or say no to her ruby-red smiles...

Qova looked at him as if his head were two dogs stuck together, turned and slightly smiled to herself as she brought her attention to Arbiddance.

Hern walked off to the side to stifle a grin.

Arbiddance stood up, walked toward the construction site, and began to remove the stopper from the bottle.

O Arbiddance the tragic
Will now use his magic
To build a quaint domicile...

"You're going to want to shut up!" Arbiddance shouted. "This isn't lemonade in here! It's something I can slay you with, so let's pipe down, okay?"

The Prince returned the instrument to the horse's saddle and waited patiently. What he saw next took him an entire week to make into song.


"So, would this have been a good time," Qovakrisstia Darkhair questioned the wizard from her huddled position on the icy floor, "to have brought that bottle of yours?"

Arbiddance chuckled as he looked her over for remaining signs of frostbite. "Perhaps, but I really didn't want to take a chance on losing it... so I left it behind. In hindsight, I guess we handled the dragon well enough."

"You handled it," Hern said as he returned to the cave. "Fire and ice... fire and ice..."

Qova was helped to her feet. She checked out all of her joints and decided she was fit to go. The three walked back out into the central cave.

"What makes me hesitate," Arbiddance said as they examined the well shaft both up and down, "are two points. One, once we get to the top, if we're in the right shaft, we'll have to destroy the door to get out... the door that you secured from the other side. New steps will have to be taken. Two: who knows what we'll meet on our ascent, so be ready for anything when we go up."

The wizard stretched out the carpet and stared at it quizzically. "That's two Ak'Kori magical relics we've found in this complex, yet the construction is unmistakably Anayari. Hmm."

Hern re-appeared with two bags filled with coins from the dragon's lair secured to his shoulders. The three kneeled on the carpet and the wizard triggered the magical word. Silently, the carpet rose to about two feet in the air.

"I'm freezing," Qova said. "Make it quick."

Arbiddance mentally guided the carpet over the well shaft. Hern felt a jolt of vertigo that quickly faded and then re-appeared as the carpet slowly ascended the shaft. He had just a few seconds to scrape a mark on the side of the shaft to identify this level for future visits.

Past several levels they went... caves, a tunnel, a wide chasm, a few rooms... one occupied by some very surprised trolls, until they reached the familiar collapsed room. The carpet drifted to the side and settled down on the rubble across the floor.

"We'll use it again to get to the door," Arbiddance said. "But first, how will we get through it?"

"Float us up there, and I'll bash the hinges," Hern replied. "Just be ready for a possible falling door once the hinges are loose."

In the process, the door did not fall, being tied to the opposite wall, but the fighter was able to pry the door out enough to give them exit.

Returned to their lair... Hern started a fire and the three collapsed around it.

Friday, August 7, 2009

By Demand...

Here is the first of a series of maps for this story. This map shows the area explored under Breakharrow Hill by the three. Read back through the posts and see if you can determine what happened where.

The next map I post will detail the ice caves after I've written some more about them.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Arbiddance had to check for himself that the dragon was dead... not that he didn't take Hern's word, but that one could never be too careful with dragons. Satisfied, he crawled over the corpse and entered its lair.

It was hard to focus with ice covering most things, but Arbiddance walked around to take stock of the cave's contents... hoping something here might solve the predicament they were in.

In the middle of the room was a mound of coins of various kinds. The mound was studded with gems and assorted silverware... so typical of a dragon... and it was a lot. He kicked around and found a few vials; from the labelling, he thought one or two might heal. Assorted urns lined the back wall. He checked out the contents of each: oil, coins, more coins, cremains, a carpet, some scrolls...

A carpet?

Praying against the odds, Arbiddance pulled the carpet out of its container and spread it out. He spoke a few arcane words over it, and it glowed with a dim light.

"Okay," he muttered. "You're magical in nature. You either fly or you stay really clean."

A thorough search of the carpet's edges revealed a tiny phrase... written in Ak'Kori sewn into the threads near the tassels. Arbiddance smiled.

In The Tunnels of Ice

The three stood perfectly still as they listened to the abrasive noise coming from one tunnel. For almost a minute, the scraping and vibrating echoes assaulted their ears as it grew louder.

At last, through the gloom, Arbiddance saw the head of something large and shouted "RUN!"

Qova and Hern didn't argue, but followed the wizard as he quickly ran toward another tunnel. Qova turned her head just enough to see the rest of the beast emerging from into the cave.

A white dragon.

She increased her pace, slipped a little on the ice and turned around in time to center a stalagtite.

Hern head the blow and turn to see her sprawled on the ice with blood flowing from her nose. He ground to a stop and shouted "Wizard!"

Arbiddance had already stopped as well and stepped back the way he came. Hern was backtracking to grab Qova, and the wizard intended to provide covering fire.

As he began to think of the spell he would cast, he saw the dragon's mouth open.

Hern crouched to pick the slight woman up, his eyes glued on the dragon as it released a blast of icy cold. The blizzard of ice and cold wind knocked the wind out of the fighter, and he felt his skin crack under the assault.

He looked down. Qova was white with ice; even the blood on her face was frozen solid. He stumbled to his feet, fell, and rose again to begin dragging her toward the nearest tunnel. As he began moving, he felt a sudden blast of heat pass by him.

The wizard's outstretched hands had erupted into a strange flame, coalesced into a small ball of fire which sped away from him and grew larger as it traveled. By the time it reached the dragon, it had grown into a magnificent fireball which tore into the icedrake and drew a sickening howl.

The two men fled with their wounded cargo.

The tunnel they entered crawled up at a difficult slant for several yards until it emptied into a small cave only slightly warmer than the one they fled. They gently placed her down on the floor and sat down themselves. There was no exit.

Arbiddance checked Qova for signs of life and was delighted to find a steady pulse. He smoothed some of the ice from her face and mouth so she could breathe better. "Huddle against her," he told Herne. "Your body heat does you no good in temperatures like this, but will do wonders for her, as will her heat for us."

The two men leaned her against a wall and bundled up against her. "We're not dressed for this," Hern said. "It's a matter of time before we either freeze or be forced to go back... and we've no idea where we are."

"Well," Arbiddance replied. "I was going to mention it before our friend arrived. In the corner of that cave, I saw a large hole in the ceiling right over a large hole in the floor. Sound familiar?"

"You think..." Hern trailed off. "Well, we have rope, but I'm not sure how we're going to get up that hole."

"We'll think of something," Arbiddance said. "We usually do."

They listened for sounds of pursuit, but Hern guessed the tunnel was too small for the dragon to follow them. After a short time of hearing it bellow, it became quiet.

"I'm going to scout," Hern said. "Stay here." Arbiddance didn't argue.

The fighter crept down the sloping tunnel as quietly as he could. His joints and skin ached from the dragon's breath, making it hard for him to move with the usual dexterity he enjoyed. After a few minutes, he reached the cave and peered in.

There was no sign of the dragon. Hern looked off the the right and saw what Arbiddance was talking about. A large well, roughly the size of the one in the collapsing room, was in the floor with a corresponding hole directly above.

Hern moved further into the room, looked to his left, and froze in fear. The dragon, scorched and burned, was in the tunnel from which it came, snorting heavily and staring at him. Hern fought the urge to run; some warrior's instinct told him he was not in danger.

He wasn't. The dragon was blind... it's pupils burned away. It was dying and could barely muster a twitch as Hern crept closer.

He stood to one side of the dragon's head in order to avoid any last gasps of breath, and plunged his sword into the creature's skull. It jumped once, grunted, thrashed for a few seconds, and became still.

If it has a mate, Hern thought, I'm in trouble. Of course, if it had a mate, it would have come by now.

Hern, his curiousity (and greed) stimulated, climbed over the dragon and ventured down the tunnel from which it came. After a short stretch, it opened into a large cavern. Hern looked around the cavern, his eyes wide.

After some time, he returned to his companions. Arbiddance looked up at the fighter, who said "we're rich."

"How rich?" the wizard asked.

"Go and see for yourself," the fighter replied, and took his place by Qova.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Posting will be suspended for just two or three days. The rain has let up and I'm trying to get things done outside that are sorely neglected as well as look after my elderly father. Doomwatch will continue after I'm caught up with real life stuff. Stay tuned!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Behind Door #3

When Hern had originally peered past the open door and saw only blackness... several days ago... he thought it was due to a vast area beyond.

The three stood in a room that probably measured ten feet by ten feet... it was hard to tell for the eternal darkness in this space. Even their amulets shed light no more than a few inches. A careful checking of the walls revealed two doors here: one to the left, and one to the right, with a blank wall ahead. It was hard to spot a secret door in the pitch black, and none of them found anything unusual on the bare wall.

The door to the left they tried first. Its rusted handle refused to budge until Hern applied the shoulder. The handle mechanism itself gave way and separated from the door itself. Beyond lay the gloom of another unexplored chamber.

A short passage gave way to a small room... no more than twenty feet square. They heavily searched here, with the only results being curious scratches covering the walls from floor to ceiling.

The other door was more productive. Giving easily to a good jolt, the adventurers found a short passage way leading to a larger chamber. Sconces lined the walls here, and as they stepped in, torches lept to life and illuminated the way.

"Well, would you look at that," Arbiddance said as he examined one torch. He scratched it, sniffed his nails, and said "it's wood. Interesting."

Hern focused in on the exiting passage on the far end and to the left. From somewhere in that direction could be heard the distant sound of running water.

Qova had stopped to look at the walls. What at first appeared to be intricate decorations were, she noticed, really writing. Lots of it.

"Anayari," she whispered, and began to trace some of the minute glyphs.

"Can you read it?" Hern asked her.

"To a point," she replied. "I think we're looking at a history... that's how it reads. It would take weeks to decipher all of this and get just a rudimentary understanding of what it means. We'd need an expert."

"My Anayari is probably no better than yours," Arbiddance added. "Here's something for us to do on those rainy days." He smiled at his own joke and looked toward the other passage. "Let's find that water."

The three moved to the other end of the room and peered down the hall. In the shadows made by the torches, it seemed to split not far away.

They advanced forward... ten feet, twenty... and came to a fork. One hall led left and seemed to have doors; the other took an oblique angle off to the right out of sight but at a downward slope. It was from there the sound of water came.

They followed the slope down and came into a reasonably large room. In the center stood a large fountain filled with water and producing more. The statue in the fountain resembled a fish with human legs... its head angled upward to constantly vomit more water.

In the light of their amulets, Arbiddance noticed that the water had a silvery sheen at times, but not all the time. He dipped a finger in, pulled it out, and tasted.

"Fresh... and cold." He put his hand in and splashed the water a little... mainly just to see what would happen.

Hern walked around the fountain and pointed at the base of the statue. "Runes."

The wizard stepped back and began to circle as well... peering at the inscriptions.

"Ah! These I can read," he smiled. "Garden variety Anayari with no linguistic tricks whatsoever."

Qova joined him in examining the runes. As she looked, she noticed that the water in the fountain was beginning to churn. Her head whipped around to stare at Arbiddance as if he were an idiot, and she screamed "RUN!"

Hern wasted no time bolting for the door, but was not quick enough to avoid the sudden surge of foamy water that washed over all three of them.

To the adventurers, it was as if reality itself was too slippery to hold onto... or perhaps it was the other way around. They felt themselves slide to one side as if on ice, through the wall with a sudden blinding speed but none of the obvious pain that comes from a fast contact with stone. They were no longer solid as they whipped through rooms and downwards through floors for what seemed to be hours until...

They stopped... skidded and fell on their rears. It was cold and dark until they could focus their amulets. A large icy cave was their final destination. The water on their clothing begane to freeze, and their breath came out in clouds.

Hern turned to Qova. "What did the runes say?"

The raven-haired woman rubbed her backside as she stood up. "They said 'VISITORS ARE NOT WELCOME.' "

Somewhere in the darkness, a strange crack echoed throughout the caverns. Through the gloom, Arbiddance thought he could see tunnels leading off in various directions. From one tunnel, the three heard a loud, vibrating sound that could only come from something alive.

And big.