I stumbled into the common room after a particularly long night of drinking. These damn yggians insist on alcohol only during meals. It doesn’t stop me for a moment; I just order as many cups as I think I will need to drink with my dinner and pour them into my wineskins for later. Amateurs study tactics, generals study strategy, and professionals study logistics.
But anyways. I stumbled into a discussion about a venture into the Tomb of the Serpent King. Didn’t know most of the folk except by reputation as fellow Butchers, but that’s usually a pretty good recommendation. And I can’t let the younguns get kilt too early. So I signed up to keep em alive and pad my coin a bit.
I cornered Bern to get the skinny on his last trip up here. He had some good info, including the location of a snake-man skeleton with a greataxe and the risk of black pudding from above. Good to know about.
We went down with the Butchers and two hirelings. Grig and Gilthanus. Grig had a dog called Snausages. Good dog. Bad hirelings.
Took the snake-man skeleton first. Plan was for our acrobat to open the door and get his attention, then retreat (that’s what professionals call running away) and pole vault over the pool in the center of the room. Snakey would chase the acrobat , the rest of us would line up to smack it as it went by, Stria could slip in and loot it’s room while we finished it off. All went according to plan until it took a swing at me instead of the acrobat. That was a nasty blow, but I caught it on my shield. Shattered the shield but didn’t get to me. I was lucky.
I got in a couple good hits myself. Then we backed up a couple steps trying to lure it out so Stria could rush in and loot the place. Gilthanus set his spear and took the charge, a solid stroke that ended the thing.
Somewhere in all the confusion one of the wizard types tried to hit it with holy water. Missed, but the vial ended up in the black pool in the center of the room. There was a lot of hissing and screeching when that happened and the pool turned sort of clearish. I wonder if more holy water would have an even stronger effect? Maybe something to try next time.
We searched the room and found some clay vessels with good and silver trim. About 150gp. Enough to turn a profit on the expedition.
Next step was the stairs down. After some arguing with the hirelings I took the lead. Made it just three steps before I felt something shift, so I froze. Some sort of trap. One of the wizards, Slinger, figured out what it did: transform the whole staircase into a ramp all the way to the bottom and whatever lay beyond. I sent everyone else back up and grabbed a rope then stepped off the trap; the expected slide happened but the rope held. Back up top myself to figure how to beat it.
Turns out there were spikes at the end of the ramp. We planned to throw rubble down on the spikes to make them less dangerous, but it turns out the trap reset itself. Varrus went down and marked the bad step with chalk so we can avoid it.
We planned to use the rope as a safety measure and go down one at a time, carefully avoiding the marked step, but that plan too had a flaw. Namely the huge stone snake-man creature in the room at the bottom, who gave Varrus a terrible fright but couldn’t actually reach far enough into the staircase to get to him. Still it was clear that one at a time would be suicide.
Our first plan was to just hang out on the staircase and shoot it from there with missile weapons. The thing was damned tough; I scored a lucky shot but the rest of our crossbowmen missed. And that one lucky shot was enough to drive it back out of view from the stairs. So, again, new plan.
We’d rely on the chalk mark to avoid the trap. Risky, but no choice. Gilthanus was all puffed up with pride after his spear took down the skeleton. So we would go first and set up at t he bottom of the stairs. Grig, the other Merc, and Snausages would set up to one side of us. Everyone else with missile weapons on the stairs, hopefully out of reach.
While we were planning, Ahnjela snuck down the stairs and into the room below. So it was do or die time. The rest of us followed behind according to plan. The mercs and I set up in position at the bottom, but there wasn’t anything… Until a horrid thudding noise from back in the darkness, just beyond the reach of our torch, sounded the alarm. A moment later a giant stone snake-man creature was falling towards us, practically on top of us. It slammed into the ground, knocking all of us in the front line off our feet.
I got up quick and struck the thing a solid blow. I was shaken, not stirred. A volley of missile fire knocked a few more chips off. But the mercenaries showed their true colors that day; they up and ran! Except for Snausages; that dog’s jaws latched on to the snakes weapon hilt and just hung on for dear life…
I called out orders for them to stand firm, but couldn’t put my heart into it since I was too busy swinging my sword. This is why officers carry prissy little pigstickers rather than real swords. They are meant to be yelling not fighting. I heard somebody trying a speech further back, something about St Crispin’s Day by some idiot who fancied himself a bard. Didn’t work any better, the shits were running like diarrhea.
Even if the mercenaries were running I figured it might go for them instead of me, and I knew Ahnjela was down here somewhere with me. I still had a backup line of archers and I figured I could take a hit or two and give the archers the chance to wear it down even if their arrows kept bouncing off. I moved far enough to get out of their way and hit the thing again. Another solid hit. All my practice over the last few months was paying off. Some more arrows bounced off. Then I heard scraping from the other side, beyond where the light was visible – that would be Ahnjela introducing the thing to her sword from behind. Not sure she hurt it, but I tried the oldest of tricks – “look out behind you!”
With Ahnjela’s presence as a threat the thing turned just enough to look behind it… And it turned back to me just in time to meet the tip of my blade in a picture perfect lunge with the tip of it’s nose. The enchantment broke and it collapsed into dust.
The mercenaries were already gone, dragging an unwilling Snausages with them, and Stria was muttering dark threats to deal with them during her next off-season. I chose not to inquire about what she meant by that. Desertion in the face of the enemy is a capital crime.
There wasn’t much immediate loot. The room at the bottom of the stairs had shields lining the walls. They were decorative and might be worth something. I grabbed one to replace mine in any case and we packed up the rest.
Beyond that room lay a bottomless chasm with narrow passages to the north and south. We resolved to come back and explore further later on.
Oh, damn. I just realized we should have brought back their weapons and checked them for magic too. There’s more of value in a place like the Tomb than just gold. Even an ordinary greataxe could save us buying one or sell for reasonable coin.
Met up with a couple Butchers I hadn’t worked with before. We decided to go back to the snake temple and dig around some more. Varros took supervision of the three hirelings and a dog. We arrived without incident. The hirelings continued the trend of being uppity. Feverbourne didn’t help by telling them they should insist on a contract, and had rights. First thing to deal with was the door with the thumping. Turned out to be a huge snake man skeleton. What is it with giant skeletons in this place? The plan was for the boys to lure the giant out and drown it in the icky pool, while I would sneak into the room and grab any loot. That plan lasted as long as it took Varros to yell at it from the doorway and run away. Then Feverbourne had to go all hero and whip out his sword to fight the thing. He managed to kill it, with help from the elf hireling with a spear. But still, what’s the point of a plan if you aren’t going to stick to it.
After getting a couple of the boys to dig a sarcophagus put from under the debris caused by the mad giant skeleton too stupid to open the door and let itself out of the room it was trapped in, we eyed the other door we hadn’t explored yet. Fancy door. Led to a stairway. Feverbourne started down and froze, swearing a step was wobbly. He actually expected me to do something about it! I’m not a bloody thief. I kill people. I didn’t see anything. One of the others did. Feverbourne did something and the stairs turned into a ramp. He almost slid down into spikes. Then the stairs turned into stairs again. Slinger went down with a lantern and Varros’s staff to check out the stairs. There was a big room down there. With an even bigger stone snake man. Luckily it was too big to fit through the doorway to the stairs, and couldn’t get to the mage. Honestly, what is it with moving skeletons and statues? Please gods can we just find living priests so I can kill something for once. Ahnjela snuck down and hid in the room. More power to her, we can’t backstab stone. The fighters assembled at the bottom of the step. Me, the mage, and the bard Brad, spread out on the stairs to fire bows or crossbows. It looked hopeless. No one could hit the thing. Except Feverbourne. The dog got in one good bite. Ahnjela was lucky to escape her attempt and hide again. The hirelings, the cowards, ran away after taking our money and one of our lanterns. Feverbourne got in one last hit, and the statue crumbled. All that for only a few old shields. Damned thing should have been guarding something at least. Big room led to a huge chasm and ways alongside it. It was too dark to see, but I wonder if the chasm was a natural one, or if it’s rounded and smoothed. Because snake temple. Giant things. Hopefully I’m just being paranoid. So, we still have more to explore.
Now I have some hunting to do in town for those hirelings. You don’t walk away with our money or gear until we say you’re done. Dead men walking.