Trust No Weavers of the Dark Arts

The Secret Library

The square room before the barbarians offers a few comfortable-looking chairs and divans, although dust and perhaps even a little mildew covers them. There are tables holding unlit lamps, a large glass hooka pipe. Paintings hang on the north and south walls with calm, pastoral scenes. Someone has even built a large recessed bookcase into the western wall, but a glass panel flush with the wall prevents access. Above the shelf, a row of colored square pegs fit into small holes. Pol starts forward eagerly, after jumping a bit when the door slid into the floor. Wolfgar snags him by his collar. "Ease up, young warrior," the older man says.

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Coming up from behind the other two, Kel adds to Wolfgar’s reprimand, “A place as well-hidden as this is almost certain to be trapped as well. Without caution, you could well lose your head.” He then begins searching for a medium-sized stone to toss through the portal.

(I’ll roll a stone or two into the room to check for pressure plates before going in. Then, I’ll walk around the room slowly waving my sword around as far in front of me as I can reach, making sure to bang it into every piece of furniture before I get too close. At the very least, I’m hoping this gives me a circumstance bonus against any traps I trigger.)

The Secret Library
 

The stones roll into the room, but don’t appear to trigger any kind of trap. After about half a minute the door hidden away in the floor slides up, and if he hadn’t known there was a door there previously, Kel would have a difficult time determining where its outline lay.

Wolfgar: “That’s what I call ‘well hid.’”

The Secret Library
 

Kel tugs at the stone that opened the door previously, and the wall slides quickly into the floor. Kel takes the torch from Pol for a moment and enters first.

The square room offers a few comfortable-looking chairs and divans, although dust and perhaps even a little mildew covers them. There are tables holding unlit lamps, and on one a large glass hooka pipe. Paintings hang on the north and south walls with calm, pastoral scenes. Someone has even built a large recessed bookcase into the western wall, but a glass panel flush with the wall prevents access. Above the shelf, a row of colored square pegs fit into small holes.

The Secret Library
 

(I can’t think of any reason to change my action. If I somehow manage not to set off any traps, I’ll end up next to the bookcase checking for anything other than books and scrolls inside.)

The Secret Library
 

(Sorry, Dan. I thought I hadn’t described the room. I will be more on the ball going forward. Geez, what a screw-up.)

Clanging his sword about, Kel makes his way about the room. No traps srping to life, and no monsters flood the chamber. Wolfgar comes down the hallway, with Pol just behind. “You can knock off the racket, kid. If there was going to be a trap, it’d have sprung by now,” he says.

The books behind the glass have titles on their spines written in many languages—although many show no title on the spine at all. None in the small party understand the languages enough to decipher what the books might be about.

above the bookshelf there are a dozen marble pegs, in all different colors. Wolfgar gingerly tugs at the first peg, the red one, with ease before replacing it. The colors are red, purple, black, brown, green, blue, gray, yellow, white, orange, silver, and gold. Wolfgar notices some runes on the end of the pegs, and with Pol’s help the trio discovers that the runes are letters, and together spell the words GOOD TO EVIL (the spaces are blank pegs).

The Secret Library
 

“The sage would likely pay well for these tomes,” Kel muses. “I believe that arranging these pegs in the proper order allows access. The only connection between colors and good or evil of which I can think involves dragons, but I know little of the creatures. Smashing the glass seems an easier alternative.” He glances to the other two to see if any help is forthcoming.

The Secret Library
 

Everyone piles in, gripping as best they can the edge of the glass. Wolfgar and Kel strain at the glass from multiple angles, grunting and cussing all the while, and the glass stubbornly refuses to budge. Pol whacks at the face of the glass with his short sword when the barbarians give up trying to dislodge the sheet. His sword clatters harmlessly off the sheer surface. Kel and Wolfgar slam their weapons and bodies against the glass, but it doesn’t break or even shudder under the impact.

“Whoever built this knows how we operate,” Wolfgar says, sheathing his sword. “If we want in, we’re going to have to arrange those pegs.”

The Secret Library
 

(It was worth a shot.)

Kel looks more closely at the pegs while he catches his breath. After a moment’s study, he says, “I’ve never heard of a gray or brown dragon. Perhaps my first guess was off the mark.” The barbarian scratches his head in bewilderment. “This sort of thinking is not my strength.”

After another long silence, Kel shares a thought: “White is usually good and black evil, correct? Let us begin with that.” With that, he reaches up and switches the white peg with the red and the black with the gold.

The Secret Library
 

Moving the pegs doesn’t seem to effect the invincible sheet. Wolfgar sits in one of the dusty chairs, flopping his big body down into its low seat. He kicks his legs up on the ottoman. Pol stares at the pegs, repeating the motto scribed on the pegs to himself over and over: “Good to evil. Good to evil.”

The Secret Library
 

(I didn’t particularly expect it to do anything. Just trying to take things one step at a time.)

Concentrating intently on the pegs, Kel paces up and down in front of the glass for a few moments. Suddenly, he halts and says, “Some priests seem to always be speaking of the evils of greed. Perhaps gold is the next color from the right. That would make the next color from the left… brown?” Kel snorts in disgust. “There must be an better way to go about this.”

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(Anything else you’d like to try? I can’t give you a lot of input without solving the puzzle I’m afraid.)

The Secret Library
 

(Kel’s not really a puzzle-solver, and this one has me stumped. Since Wolfgar doesn’t seem to particularly care and Pol is obviously out of his depth, it looks like we’ll have to move on.)

After only a few moments more, Kel growls deeply in frustration. “We dare not waste the entire day here. Let this place keep its accursed tomes.” With that, he turns on his heel and stalks from the secret room, chopping at a nearby piece of furniture with his sword as he goes.

Back in the room with the tube, Kel paces back and forth until his companions rejoin him. Once the secret door has again slid closed, he examines the door to the south.

(Standard drill: listen at the door, then open it if there is no noise.)

The Secret Library
 

The sound of high winds can be clearly heard through the wood of the door, which is covered in a rime of frost. The handle of the door is ice cold to the touch.

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Kel’s breath hisses through his teeth as he jerks his hand back from the door. “Some foul magic is at work here. Best we find another way.”

(I believe there’s one door remaining that we haven’t checked. I’ll listen at that one as well.)

The Secret Library
 

Kel returns the way he came to the room with the skeleton, and the narrow passage that descends to the southeast into darkness. Standing before Pol, who holds the torch aloft, the group descends with Wolfgar in the rear. The passageway winds downward at an angle so that by the time Kel reaches the end of the passageway, they are 20 feet or so lower than the room they just left. Pol’s torch illuminates a large, empty chamber which displays beautiful marble architecture in the twin balconies on the east and west sides of the room. Each balcony is surrounded by a colonnade above and below and connects to the main floor via a narrow staircase. The floor shows a checkerboard pattern of cracked black and white marble slabs. The ceiling is vaulted.

Three corpses, blackened and desiccated by time, lie in the middle of the room.

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(I thought there was another door in the tube room. Where was the skeleton? I’m completely lost.)

The Secret Library
 

(I have got to get around to drawing you a map. The only other exit from the tube room is the room where they slew the adult mountain lions. This is back the way you came this excursion, heading west down the staircase from the tri-part landing. I had to check the comments myself to know what was what.)

The Secret Library
 

Kel lets out a low whistle. “Fancy. Who would have a grand hall like this in their basement?” He spins in a slow circle, keen eyes seeking for any danger in the far-flung corners of this space. Once he is satisfied that he and his friends are alone here, he begins the climb to the eastern balcony.

The Secret Library
 

The balcony is almost 20 feet high, reachable by a set of narrow, steep stairs. A dozen arrows, all old and most broken, lie scattered across the floor. A pair of old prayer books, now too mold-encrusted to read, lie on the floor near large bronze doors, which are covered in bronze faces. Kel stares at the door as Wolfgar hustles the boy up the narrow stairs.

The Secret Library
 

Kel warns, “Stand ready.” He then puts his shoulder to the large door and pushes mightily against it.

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“Stand ready,” Kel says, but as he moves close to the door, the eyes on the bronze faces flutter open, their eyes looking directly at him. Kel stop for a moment, but he leans his shoulder against the door where there are no faces. When he touches the door, the faces begin speaking in childrens voices, in a sing-song rhythm:

“Down below mother moon About the lands, a sacred gloom Reaching across the midnight sky Knowing the truths that make you cry Night imbued with his very essence Eternal light forbids his presence Secret questions you dare to ask Shadows are his faithful mask.”

Behind Kel, Wolfgar hisses: “Something’s coming up behind us!” Kel takes his shoulder from the door, and listens. He hears a snuffling sound, like a hungry dog or a large sow rooting about in muck. From the sloping passageway they entered the gallery from, the barbarians see the enormous figure of a half-bull, half-man emerge into the dim light from Pol’s torch, held aloft. The horrible thing looks towards the source of the light, black eyes pits descending into oblivion. It holds aloft an axe larger than they’ve ever seen. Its snout twists into a horrible rictus, and the beast snarls: “Flesh!”

(Kel goes first, then Wolfgar, then the minotaur.)

The Secret Library
 

Though still slightly unnerved by the bronze door’s macabre poem, Kel sets to battle with a calm born from repetition. He quickly slides the hunting bow from his shoulder and lets fly an arrow at the beast below.

The Secret Library
 

Kel’s aim is true, the path of his arrow straight, and yet, as it strikes the thick hide of the bull-man, the arrow bounces harmlessly from the beast’s hide. Wolfgar tells Pol to stand in the furthest corner of the balcony, and takes two steps down the narrow staircase, waiting. He calls to Kel: “Keep up the archery – and if you can land a shot in the beasts eye the better!”

The minotaur hustles halfway across the room.

The Secret Library
 

(Assuming you want Kel to fire another arrow.) Kel looses another shaft, this one punching the beast in the shoulder as it hustles across the gallery towards the stairs (span crit: 19-0). The bull-man howls in pain, the arrow waggling from it’s hide, the wound leaking a bit of dark blood (2 hp after DR). Its footing falters and it takes a knee for just a moment – long enough for Kel to launch another arrow, which clatters off the flagstones about the beast as it rises, furious, and runs towards the stairs.

Wolfgar looks over the lip of the stairwell at Kel: “That wasn’t his eye, was it?” as the beast rounds the bottom of the balcony at the base of the stairs, Wolfgar roars, and charges down the stairs, broadsword held above his head for a glorious hacking chop at the 7 foot tall abomination (span crit: 24-5). His blade descends, chipping one of the bull-man’s horns (2 hp after DR). The beast reels back and Wolfgar presses his advantage, and the bull-man is only barely able to parry the savage strike of the barbarian (5 hp after DR).

The minotaur steps back and surges forward, but Wolfgar turns aside the (ridiculously inept) axe blow of the beast. (If there was a span crit for awesome defense, Wolfgar would qualify for it. Dude is invincible against this stupid minotaur.) However, the narrowness of the stairs and the force of his counterstrike unbalance the barbarian, and he steps heavily off the stairs, and falls to his knees.

The Secret Library
 

(P.S. There is a map.

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(The following action assumes that the map is in 5 foot squares, that the balcony is no more than 20 feet off the ground, and that I make my Jump check to stay on my feet.)

Seeing his mentor in trouble, Kel lets his bow clatter at his feet. His hands thus freed, he grasps the railing and vaults over it to the floor below. Warily circling behind the great beast, he readies his new sword for action (flanking position).

(As long as I’m flanking, I’ll use two-handed Power Attacks with the sword.)

The Secret Library
 

Kel easily sticks his landing. The beast whirls on him as he draws his gleaming cutlass and awaits an opening in the minotaur’s defenses. Wolfgar stands and thrusts with his blade, his strike a little off balance, but still capable of inflicting a wound (4 hp after DR).

The beast swings at Wolfgar with his axe, but the weathered barbarian dances aside. The beast next attempts to disembowel Kel with its horns, but the young barbarian is too quick, and dodges aside just ahead of disaster.

Kel’s cutlass flashes at the horned abomination and knocks it off balance (span crit: 24-3; 4 HP after DR). He follows with another punishing strike, hoping to seriously wound the beast, who desperately deflects the barbarian’s savage blow (7 hp after DR). Wolfgar howls a battlecry and in an blur of movement and blood (span crit: 24-4 (bloody hell!); followed by another span crit: 24-9; and another SC: 26-0; yet more: 26-7; 21-8; and the end of the run: 25-17. (Six total hits – do you think this is too much to chain together? The rolls were all legit.) 2+2+8+4+6+10= 34 hp after DR.)) The beast, slashed open in places, missing a hand, a horn and one leg below the knee, collapses into a pile of red meat and dark blood gout of black blood with an anguished grunt. Wolfgar, breathing heavily and absolutely covered in the bull-man’s blood and bits of flesh, begins to wipe the gore from his face. “That was a nice move, leaping off the balcony,” he says conversationally.

The Secret Library
 

(Since I’m sure this happens next,) Kel searches through the pile of meat and blood and come up with the beast’s belt pouches, the largest of which more closely resembles a small sack. Inside Kel finds a pile of (500) silver coins and a small bone statue, finely carved. Tucked into another, he finds a gold dragon comb with a red garnet eye. Finally, Kel pulls a small pot from a pouch that looks to contain a strange smelling ointment.

The Secret Library
 

(Doing the span crits this way is incredibly brutal, which I’m sure is what you were going for. I believe that it’s likely to benefit us more often than our enemies, so I don’t have a problem with it.)

While he digs through the gore, Kel answers, “If I had known that you needed so little help, I would have stayed above.” Finished with his grim task, he looks up at the other barbarian. “Let’s find out what this beast was guarding.” With that, he strides back up the stairs to the balcony, nodding to Pol as the boy’s face appears over the balustrade.

(Let’s try opening that door again.)

The Secret Library
 

(I think I will make the bonus attacks opportunity attacks, just so no one can windmill a dude to death without feats at least.)

Kel climbs the stairs again. Before the doors the eyes remain closed until he gets close to them (five feet). When he touches the doors, the voices repeat their poem.

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(Sounds fair.)

Ready for whatever might lurk beyond, Kel shoves against the portals.

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The doors don’t budge (I’m assuming that your not making an attempt to destroy the doors). As the doors repeat their message Kel looks for the lock and spies none. His skin tingles with the sudden knowledge that the door is magically sealed.

The Secret Library
 

Kel throws his hands up in the air in disgust. He then turns and stalks back to ground level, growling the entire way about magical traps and puzzles and the graphic details of what he would do to the creators of same should he ever meet them. Winding down his tirade, Kel takes a few deep breaths and points to the door near the hall’s entrance while looking over his shoulder at his companions. “Shall we continue?”

The Secret Library
 

The small room is mostly empty. Both doors can be barred from the inside. A 1-foot square Judas window, covered in an iron grate with 3-inch openings, with a hinged iron door that can close and latch from the inside of the room, takes up the center of each door. There is also a similar window on the eastern wall. (Anyone using these Judas windows has improved cover (+10 Hide, +8 AC, +4 Reflex saves, Improved Evasion.))

The Secret Library
 

The room beyond the barred doors contains four old beds nestled among empty crates and overturned wooden furniture. The north wall has a number of inset shelves, but they contain only empty jars.

The Secret Library
 

Kel paces the small room, looking at it from several angles before saying, “This space seems very defensible. Should we ever be cut off from the surface, we could do much worse than to retreat here.”

(I’ll check the southern doors in the hall next, from west to east.)

The Secret Library
 

(Nevermind. I looked at the map again and realized that the second room description was for that little space to the north of the cell. I want to check the odd-shaped room to the east first.)

The Secret Library
Jork

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