Well, I almost got us all killed today. But more on that in a moment.
Earlier on, we’d found an archway leading to a mist-filled room; by pressing gems on the archway we’d made the mist vanish. I wondered whether this might be the same as whatever that mist was, but on close examination, it seemed somewhat different. I detected conjuration magic in the mist, now fading – perhaps the conjuration magic had been to replace what the air elemental scattered?
We sent an earth elemental down the corridor to check what was going on. The fog seemed to be gradually thinning, but had not yet cleared when Vall went down to see what was going on, and immediately started to panic – very much out of character. Myrie held her breath, went in, and pulled him out. Since the mist was still dissipating, we waited for an hour or so until it was completely gone.
(Why did it replenish itself at first, but not later? Was it because we burned the webs?)
The panic effect was no longer giving us trouble. Vall headed back down and searched thoroughly, finding no traps, no secret corridors, and no keys.
At the bottom of the stairs was a small room containing various rotting furniture and a gilded couch on which a dead-looking humanoid lay with a crown on its head. A jade coffer lay at the foot of the couch, and near the stairs was a mace.
From the mace I detected strong conjuration magic, and from the couch strong transmutation. Chrysta scanned for undead, and to nobody’s surprise confirmed that the figure on the couch was of that ilk.
I had my suspicions here. We hadn’t reached the end of the poem, so it seemed unlikely to be Acererak himself – more likely some sort of decoy, I thought, especially given the smallness of the room. The only conjuration enchantment I could think of that would be likely found on a mace would be disruption – that is, undead-killing – which seemed awfully convenient. Also, if my understanding of Acererak’s current status was correct, he ought to be much smaller and skull-ier.
In all this I was correct, but I badly misjudged the exact nature of the threat in the room. I assumed it to be a mummy, or something of that ilk, and we prepared accordingly: Chrysta and I cast various magical enhancements on one another, we stood in the stairway with our tougher fighters in front, Chrysta and I both summoned lantern archons to assist us, and then I telekinetically picked up the mace and handed to Chrysta.
At that point, the figure on the couch sat up and boomed something about “Who disturbs the rest of Acererak?”
Then, because we had obligingly arranged ourselves in a line up the staircase, it hit all of us (give or take Vall) with a ferocious gust of cold. Merinderel fell, and Faye abandoned the front line to go to his aid; I’m not sure this was a clever tactical decision, but at the moment I’m hardly in a position to criticise her for that, and I suppose I should be glad if she’s showing some sign of taking responsibility for her entourage.
The archons were blasted out of existence – a couple of mine scored a few hits on the creature before they went – and the others engaged. Chrysta hit it with the mace, which seemed to scare it, and Vall slipped past it only to find that his rapier had little effect on it. Myrie had similar problems with her arrows, before switching to blunt-headed ones.
(Note to self: brief companions on appropriate measures against various creature types, ensure that everybody is adequately equipped with a range of options for combat.)
By this stage I realised my error; we might not be dealing with Acererak himself, but this creature was a lich of some power. I had some idea of their capabilities and was concerned that another spell might well kill us all.
Thankfully, my Halt Undead spell stopped it in its tracks – not the first time it’s saved us from serious danger – and we had time for a very quick tactical discussion and change of plans. We checked the jade coffer, thinking perhaps to find a phylactery, but there was nothing appropriate. Then Chrysta gave the mace to Vall and resumed using the hammer I’d enchanted for her – it is gratifying how fond she is of it – and I boosted Faye’s strength.
Once we were ready, Faye grabbed the lich, preventing it from casting and from defending itself against a thorough hammering from the rest of the party. Before very long it was smashed to bits.
At this point the magic mace disintegrated (the ONE decent bit of loot we’d found in this damned place) and the ceiling started coming down. We ran back towards the entrance, all the way to the secret door in the pit, and things continued to crumble around us.
This is when Chrysta’s obsession with rocks became useful. Something in the nature of the rockfall made her suspicious, and she stopped, shouting something I couldn’t catch. I realised what was going on, took rock-elemental form and melded with the wall (just in case I was wrong) and disbelieved the illusion, for indeed that’s what it was. The others took a little longer, and Merinderel made it all the way out and had to be retrieved by Vall, but eventually we regrouped.
Vall had picked up the coffer. Inside were six potions of mediocre healing, perhaps a thousand gold pieces’ worth of gems, a scroll with seven low-level spells, and a map that purported to show the location of a treasure several hundred miles away.
Working on the assumption that this entire “treasure” was cheap nonsense intended to insult and annoy us, I examined it closely – with Merinderel’s aid – and we confirmed that it was a high-quality forgery.
So, as suspected, the lich was merely a decoy. But the poem suggested that Acererak’s tomb lay some way beyond the pit-trap secret door, and there weren’t any other doors or rooms past that… or none that we had found.
Returning to the lich’s chamber, we found that his body had disappeared. We (mostly Vall) searched the room for secret doors, finding none, then continued to search all the way back to the pit trap. Just before the trap, on the stairs leading down, Vall found an extremely well-hidden secret door; it was sturdily built with no obvious way of opening it, but Chrysta dealt with this by reshaping the stone around it so it fell open.
Considering the next lines of the poem:
“These keys and those are most important of all” – still haven’t found them. Could be a problem.
“Beware of trembling hands and what will maul” – perhaps the lich, and the mace? Not sure.
“If you find the false you find the true” – does that mean the false Acererak? Or something else?
“And into the columned hall you’ll come” – not there yet.
Shiny points: 32 carried over, +1 for summary = 33.