After much deliberation, Ian climbed out along the narrow stone bridge to get a closer look at the wall of arcing electricity. He felt the hair on his arms and neck rise up as he drew closer. Maur then recalled some of his limited knowledge of aelectricity from his studies back home. Dwarves had experimented with such forces to light their deep caverns and power machines for the past several centuries, and while it was not his area of expertise, he at least had some basic familiarity. “It normally can’t hurt ya, as long as you aren’t grounded when you touch it,” he called out. “Meaning what?” Ian called back, inching closer to the field. “Meaning, ya might be able to pass through safely, if’n ya don’t touch the ground,” Maur replied.
“Well that’s easy, I just need to fly through it then,” Ian said sarcastically.
By this time, he was only an arm’s breadth away from the wall, which pulsed and crackled with current. Remembering another detail, Maur quickly added, “and any metal that passes through might be destroyed, depending on how strong the aelectrical current is!”
“Destroyed?” Ian glanced back.
“Or not…I’m not really sure…fused, melted, super-charged, it might even make the current stronger and really kill ya quick!” the dwarf didn’t seem to certain exactly what would happen, but he seemed confident it wouldn’t be good.
Ian made his way back to the group, long enough to shed his weapons, rings, coin pouch, anything that he had on his person made of any sort of metal. He stuffed all this into a large sack, then made his way back out onto the narrow stone bridge. He tossed the items through the aelectrical wall, testing Maur’s theory. The sack landed on the far stairway, clear of the white, milky goo with a solid clang. Well, that seemed good enough, he thought, as he suddenly took a running leap through the aelectrical barrier.
He landed safely on the far side, with an exhilarating sensation as the last of the current arced and flowed from him back to the wall. He made it safely. Ian then quickly ran across the rest of the bridge, arriving at his sack of gear.
Maur was next. Just as Ian had done, he bagged up all his metal gear, sword, pistol, bracers, plate armor…all in a number of large sacks. Tying them all together into a massive cumbersome mass, he made his way out on the stone bridge, throwing the items through the aelectrical wall. Ian caught them and scurried back to the far side of the room to deposit them.
Maur took a running leap through the arcing wall of energy, but at the last moment, his ankle twisted slightly sending him barreling over and off the bridge, crashing through the arcing wall which suddenly surged and pulsed as massive blue-white power crackled and surged about him, igniting every hair on his body. Muscles clenched tight, he fell like a rock into the white goo with a sickening plop, instantly extinguishing his scorching head and what was left of his beard.
The goo was thick, and pervasive, coating him like heavy paint. weighing him down and dragging him into it’s depths. Near panic, Maur grabbed for a rope dangling a few feet from him, it’s far end tied securely to his heavy bag of equipment. Ian dove in to help, while Gideon, separated from them by the electrical wall could only watch helplessly.
After several tense moments, Ian managed to make his way to Maur and fish him out of the goo and back to dry land. The dwarf was beside himself, infuriated over the loss of his beard and coated in a thick white pasty goo literally from head to toe. Ian, was in much the same predicament, albeit with his hair still fully intact. As Gideon and Feruch crossed over safely, they could not help but erupt in laughter at the sight of them.
Ian took a long look at Maur, noting the singed remains of his mohawk, now sparse bead, all matted white and finally sees the humor, joining in with hsi own laughter.
Maur, not seeing any humor at all in the situation, tries his best to ignore them, distracting himself by checking on his armor. Finding that everyone’s metallic gear is now magnetized and stuck together in a huge ball of stuff, the laughter quickly fades, “See!” Maur said through pursed lips, showing them the mass of magnetized equipment, “that’s what you all get for laughing at me like that. The Iron God has cursed us all!”
The situation suddenly becoming serious again, Gideon looks through the mass, “What do the dwarven engineers recommend we do about this?” he asked.
“Oh this, it should fade after an hour or so. This engineer would recommend we take a moment to eat, drink and rest. I’m famished.”
The party made a wary campsite in the nearby hallway, taking some time to rest, and enjoy some field rations and water. Just as predicted, after about an hour, their gear had demagnetized and they were able to suit up and press forward again.
The passage they followed soon dumped them into a rectangular room, bare except for a six-inch thick rope hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the room. The knotted bottom of the rope dangled just a few inches above the floor.
The party searched about the room, while Feruch stood guard at the entrance. Maur approached the rope, and one a whim, reached up and began climbing. Unexpectedly, as soon as his full weight was on the massive rope, a loud rumble reverberated through the floor. Gideon and Ian glanced towards the center of the room, interrupted from their efforts searching for secret doors.
“Run!” Ian cried, rushing towards Maur. Gideon and Ian leaped towards Maur at the last moment, grabbing hold of the rope dangling from the ceiling in the middle of the room. The floor suddenly hinged open, giving way to a deep pit beneath them. The floor of the pit, some thirty feet below, was filled with a crystal clear liquid.
Feruch safely stood at the entrance to the chamber, now a ledge to the pit the rest of the party dangled over. Maur glanced about, spotting a secret door that must have clicked open as the floor opened up. It was on the opposite side of the room. “Well, what do you make of that?”, the dwarf said with a slight hint of astonishment.
“Acid, I bet,” Ian said. He and Gideon were still staring down at the pit looming beneath them.
“No, over there,” Maur nodded his head towards the opposite side of the room, towards the secret door.
His movements caused the rope to spin and bob slowly. As Gideon spun about, facing the secret door, he noticed it opened to a short passage way. “Start swinging. When we get close enough, I’ll make a jump for it,”
The dangling trio shifted their body weight, soon sending the rope swinging like a pendulum. In time, it was swinging just a few feet from the secret door. As it drew close, Gideon let go of the rope, allowing the momentum to launch him through the door and into the passageway. In the middle of the hallway, he saw a large iron ring embedded into the stone floor. Quickly conceiving an idea, he looked to the rest of the part, reaching for the coil of rope in his backpack.
“There’s a ring to anchor the rope with over here. I’ll throw you my rope and let’s tie it off. The two of you can then climb over.” “Feruch,” Gideon called across the room, “You will just have to sit tight until we find a way to get you across.” Feruch nodded, clearly not very excited about swinging across a deep pit of acid.
Gideon, Ian and Maur were soon off the rope and in the far passage. Finding no levers or mechanism to reset the trap, they pressed forward, leaving Feruch behind. In time, they made their way to a square chamber, whose floor, walls and ceiling were lined with wood – a particularly knotty specimen of pine. On the opposite side of the room was a door, literally covered in pine knots.
Upon inspection, they found the door to be locked. Ian tried to pick the lock, but it was obviously damaged beyond repair. “Might have to smash this one down,” he mumbled, putting away his lockpicks.
“I don’t trust it,” Maur said, scratching what was left of his beard. He noticed the hinges of the door were designed for the door to swing inward. “The past several rooms we’ve come to have been trapped, and they seem to be getting more deadly as we go.”
“I agree,” Gideon glanced about for a clue as to what the surprise in this room might be, " it was just blind luck none of us fell into that pit of acid a moment ago. There would have been no way to climb out if we had."
“I don’t even want to think about what that would have been like”, Maur shook his head.
As the two friends conversed, Ian had been inspecting the door further, “There is some sort of trap here. Of that I’’m certain,” Ian motioned towards the door hinges. “These hinges appear to be in some sort of metal casing. Can’t say I’ve ever seen a hinge configured like this.” Gideon and the dwarf looked closely at the hinges, seeing what Ian had spotted with his trained eye. “And I’m not sure how to disarm it,” Ian continued, “I mean…short of removing the hinges, I don’t see any other option…and to do that we would have to first open the door.”
“When crafting bows,” Maur began, “it is necessary to cut the wood with the grain. This maintains the natural flexibility in the limbs of the weapon. It is the same if the bow is made of wood or steel.”
“That is good to hear, but I don’t follow.” Gideon was puzzled by where Maur was going with this.
“What is relevant is what happens when you go against the grain, Gideon,” Maur continued. “This is generally a good way to make a weak bow. They tend to break easily and simply don’t work.”
Gideon just stared at Maur.
“I’m saying that, in this case, we should go against the grain…”
“Uhh…” Gideon still wasn’t getting it.
“Don’t do what we are expected to do!” Maur exclaimed.
“Oh!” Ian joined in, “You mean that they are expecting us to push this door open, but instead we should pull it?”
“Yes!” Maur announced. “We pull it open, breaking the hinges in the process.”
“An excellent idea,” Gideon added quickly, finally beginning to understand.
Maur securely tied a length of his rope to the door handle, then standing as far from the door as the room would allow, he began to pull tightly against the door. Ian and Gideon kept their distance.
The rope pulled taught, and the dwarf continued to tug. The door creaked from the strain, the rope popped, near breaking. The dwarf continued to pull with the super-human strength his magical belt of giant strength afforded him. Suddenly, and violently the door tore free, launching itself towards Maur. He lunged out of the way, narrowly avoiding the catapulting door as it slammed into the wall behind him, shattering.
As the dust and debris settled, they could now see the trap that had awaited them. Behind the door was an iron plate, covered in countless metal spikes. Each of these spikes lined up with one of the knots in the wooden door. The hinges were anchored to metal tracks, so that if someone slammed into this door to knock it down, the door would slide along these tracks, slamming into the metal spikes. These spikes would, then, instantly stab through the knots of the wooden door, impaling the person who forced the door.
" Crafty," Maur mumbled, admiring the precision taken to line each spike up perfectly with the knots in the door.
“Ingenious,” Ian said, glancing up at the tracked hinges.
“Deadly,” Gideon declared, eyeing the thin foot long spikes protruding from the metal plate.
Ian noticed the metal plate was hinged. After a brief inspection, he pulled on one of the spikes, causing the plate to pivot forward, revealing yet another passageway beyond.
The party pressed forward.
After passing through another long, winding passage, the party rounded a corner to see a door at the far end of a long hallway. As it came into view, they caught the brief hint of the door closing rapidly. The party hastily rushed forward, weapons drawn, only to stop short, inches from the door.
“Damnit!” exclaimed Gideon who was growing tired of traps and sneaking about. He was ready for a flesh and blood adversary. “This could be another trap! Did anyone actually see someone?” he asked.
Ian and Maur shook their heads, “No.”
“But if there is someone or something behind this door, they likely know we’re here,” Maur stated the obvious.
“So much for surprise then,” Gideon grimaced.
As the party tried to craft a plan, Ian heard the sounds of someone approaching from behind. Wheeling about, Gideon rushed forward, casting a cautious glance back the way they came. After a tense moment, Gideon was relieved to see Feruch slowly making his way towards him. Using their thoughtstones, Feruch explained that after a time, the trap door had reset, but the secret door was unable to close with the rope tied down in the hallway. He had been able to cross over and force his way through and rejoin the party.
Back to their full numbers, Feruch took a moment to heal the party from the varied wounds they had suffered. Gideon, testing the door that now stood before them, found it was unlocked. Cautiously, he opened the door slightly, peering in.
Beyond the door was a massive room – 130’ long, 100’ wide, and 30’ to 40’ tall.
There were four rows of pillars, two on each side of the room, with a long space between them. Near the center of the room was a large reptilian creature with a heavy shell and a tail that looks like a giant mace. At the far end of the room was a throne. Sitting there was a nine feet tall, emaciated gnoll-like figure whose evil eyes glowed amber. The creature bore a 7’ long flail with three massive heads. To the right of the great marble throne were six heavily armored gnolls with halberds, and to the left were 6 leering ghouls.
As quickly as he opened it, Gideon closed the door.
“Well?” asked Maur, “What’s in there?”
“Spit it out, lad,” Maur pressed.
“A giant gnoll god, a behemoth covered in plates and scales, a small army of gnolls and…ghouls.”
“Lovely,” mentioned Feruch. “Looks like I got here at just the right time.”