The other two stair cases descend to the east and west, and the unexplored hall to the north beckons as always. Kel peers into the darkness of the stairwells, trying in vain to make out the shapes of whatever lies beyond. “The sage seemed to think that there was more down here than just the lower levels of the old fortress. If there is much ground to cover, we would be ill-advised to strike out blindly. Let us continue our search from where we left off two days ago.”
The barbarian turns to Pol and continues, “If you see anything that looks threatening, get between us. I do not wish to lop off your head by mistake in the heat of battle.” The barbarians descend into the stinking hall, still reeking of sweat and urine, but now also mixed with the smell of rotting corpses. As the torchlight peels back the darkness at the bottom of the stairs, a sea of rats disperses, but grudgingly, from the gnawed bodies slain days prior.
The barbarians move cautiously to the door they had previously trapped.The door and latch appear to have been melted by the heat of the rod, and stooping to sniff the slagged metal, Kel recognizes acrid alchemical scents. Standing in the doorway, Kel, holding Pol by the shoulders just before him, the boy holding the torch out, sees a room in disarray, but not destroyed.The furnishings are of better quality than they've seen, though all soiled and ruined.
Another room adjoins this, and appears to be where the inhabitants slept. Disheveled beds and piled garbage are the features of the second room, though Pol’s sharp eyes detect a small locked box under one of the bunks. The key found on the dead crossbowman opens the box. Inside are a patched pair of breeches, a brush, a piece of blank parchment, a hunk of chalk, an excellent set of lock picks in a leather case, a healer's kit, and a small yellow agate wrapped in an old rag.
Back in the hallway, approaching the room where the pig men emerged but never engaged the barbarians, the hallway is lined with what looks to be a film of oil, congealed almost into a paste. Their room has five crude beds, and on closer inspection, a few bags of moldy bread and some rotting, unidentifiable meat. Returning to the hallway, Kel and Wolfgar look at one another and at the goop on the floor and know that it didn’t come from anything that was originally in this hallway.
The small party crosses the hallway and listens at the battered wood of the last door, and after hearing nothing, Kel lifts the latch and swings the door open. Within the walls of this oddly-shaped room are partially covered in tattered red and black curtains. Kel sees an archway leading south despite it being half-covered by one of these curtains. The vaulted ceiling above is painted black. Spattered bloodstains cover the floor, particularly around a plain stone altar resting in front of the deep eastern recess. The place stinks of murder and pain, as well as the musk of some angry beast.
His brows knotted in righteous fury, Kel springs into the room without caution and rushes toward the evil altar. Summoning every ounce of his strength, he growls low and feral as his body slams into the stone slab with a reverberating thud.