With the foul, festering, fungus-infested foe finally fallen, the group briefly debated what to do next. Having already proven hardy enough to resist the spores that billowed forth from the (now unmovign) corpse, knight Treize was quickly volunteered to search the room it had emerged from. The half-elven knight's thorough (and thoroughly unpleasant) investigation revealed little besides sacks of rotting, moldy muck that may once have been food, and bits of splintered wood scattered across the stone floor. Looking up, he discovered a large hole in the wooden ceiling that appeared to be covered by some kind of rug or tapestry on the other side.
Making a mental note of the hole's location, the group prepared to ascend the stairs and investigate the second floor. True to form, Dixn crept off to take the stairs in the guard room of the eastern wing, ordering Ser'Racha to follow Carrion and the others as they ascended the western staircase in the main hall.
Both groups began a simultaneous search of the second floor, moving clockwise from opposite corners of the building. In the southwest corner the main group found a room whose walls were hung with ancient, decaying tapestries—it's lacquered floorboards bearing a familiar circle of mystical-looking symbols. In this case a large rug lay partially across the circle, which Zakariya attempted to carefully roll away from the mysterious runes. However, the only obvious result was a billowing cloud of dust accompanied by the faint sounds of some small creature scrabbling about in the rafters.
Finding one of the doors to the next room already ajar, Zakariya and Treize each took up position at one of the entrances and burst into the room together, hoping to surprise any creatures within. However, it was knight Treize who was surprised when an iron bear trap fell from the top of the partially opened door and snapped shut over his shoulder. The hapless half-elf found himself unable to move from the doorway, as the trap was connected by a heavy chain to a spike that appeared to have been driven into the wooden doorframe with great force.
After two unsuccessful attempts, artificer Razi was finally able to dismantle the trap painfully pinning his pal in place, and the party proceeded to painstakingly prowl the premises. Inside they found numerous cloth bundles that had once been small, plain bedrolls—now little more than rags—and odd tracks in the dust that covered the floor. As more sounds of scampering and eerie chittering drifted down from above, the party determined that the tracks resembled those of a raccoon—but one lacking any flesh. This prompted a brief discussion as to the possible origins of such a creature. Was it a necromancer's familiar? Or simply another result of the strange, sinister sorcery that seemed to suffuse the southern section of the forest?
At some point, Carrion wandered away from the rest of the group, following the balcony that overlooked the mystic circle on the first floor. As Treize and Zakaria began searching the upper level of the northwest wing, Ser'Racha and Cade chased after the tiefling bard. The halfling cleric was attempting to assure him of the advantages of sticking together, when they both heard Zakariya's sudden shout…
First one, then another, then three skeletal raccoons appeared in the rafters above Treize and Razi's head. Ghostly, transparent flesh clung to their bones like violet flames, and a cunning light shone from their eyeless sockets as the creatures stared down at the pair of adventurers. At Razi's yell, Dixn emerged from one of the rooms on the eastern side of the building, leaping onto the balcony railing and dashing past Cade and Carrion on her way to assist. As she passed, a fourth feral phantom leapt down to land beside the tiefling bard, and the others sprang to attack Zakariya and Trieze.
Knight Trieze valiantly engaged one of the (not quite) furry foes, but the dastardly dexterous demon deftly dodged his deadly blade as the remaining duo dogged the distressed alchemist. Reeling back from the vicious assault, Zakariya hurled a flask filled with a fiercely flaming substance, which fully engulfed two of the phantoms but failed to destroy them.
Meanwhile, Ser'Racha nimbly leapt behind the phantom threatening Carrion, distracting the spectral beast long enough for the bard to dispatch it by driving a dagger deep into the eye socket of it's skull, as Cade joined Dixn in racing to aid the others. Reaching the room first, the halfling monk burst through the doorway in spectacular fashion—smashing a phantom's skull with a swing of his staff and punching another to pieces before healing the ragged-looking Razi with a ki-infused touch. As the others caught up, knight Treize finished the final phantom with a fell flourish, piercing it's forehead with the blade of his rapier.
The battle ended, Cade collected the creature's bones, contemplating crafting a soup from them. In the process, he discovered a tinderbox clutched in one of the creature's skeletal paws—which knight Treize quicky recognized as his own. This prompted the party to peruse their packs for potential signs of petty pilfering, leading Dixn to the disconcerting discovery that her share of the magic arrows were missing. Stalking off, the ranger soon retrieved said arrows from the remains of the fourth phantom.
With that completed, the group resolved to finish their sweep of the second floor, starting with the large room off of the south side of the balcony. As Treize and Cade inspected the double doors facing the stairs, artificer Razi found Dixn in a darkened corner examining the door opposite the first room they had searched on this level. Both sets of doors appeared to be barred or barricaded from the other side, but after some effort the party managed to push them open far enough to slip through.
Inside they found the remains of what appeared to have been a library. Rows of bookcases lined the walls, their contents now crumbled to ruins. Tables lay scattered about, and the south and west entrances had heavy furniture piled against them. A circular pattern of scorch marks and ash filled the eastern half of the room, the wood cracked and charred, at the center of which lay a humanoid skeleton sprawled across a low table.
A detailed investigation of the library revealed many things. Dixn discovered a staircase descending down from a secret nook behind a dilapidated tapestry in the southwest corner, which appeared to have once been behind the bookshelf that was moved to barricade the western door. Inspecting the shelves, Zakariya found a total of five scroll cases, their contents sealed and seemingly still intact. Opening one revealed a roll of parchment penned in the same primordial language they had previously perceived in this place.
Examining the skeleton, the group deduced that it was a more recent addition than the ones which had guarded the courtyard. Charred scraps of clothing befitting a modern-day adventurer clung to it in tatters, and judging by the shape of the skull and proportions of the limbs, it had once been a half-elven male. It appeared they had backed up against the table in fright, before being caught in the heart of a massive, fiery explosion. From this, Zakariya was able to identify the corpse as the order of the wolf's half-elven sorcerer, whose wild magic must have fatally backfired, engulfing him (and much of the room) in a ball of arcane fire.
No sooner had they reached this conclusion, than a wave of force slammed into Cade's back. Whirling around, the halfling monk saw no sign of his attacker—though he did see a table lift into the air seemingly unaided and fling itself towards Treize. Using his goggles to pinpoint the source of the magic, artificer Razi was barely able to make out the spectral form of their invisible opponent, calling out it's location to the others. Dixn lit a bundle of sacred herbs and placed them in her facemask as Treize, Cade, and Carrion blindly attacked the space Razi had indicated, managing to score a few lucky hits despite being unable to see their foe. Then Dixn charged forward, drawing her blade and putting her undead-fighting skills to use by scooping a handful of ash and dust from the floor and flinging it at the furious phantom, the particles clinging to it's form and rendering it visible as holy smoke began billowing from her mask.
Further enraged, the poltergeist unleashed it's forceful fury, flinging Dixn upward to slam against the ceiling before retreating back to the opposite side of the room—phasing through Zakariya in the process and shedding some of the dust and ash that covered it.
Cornered by Carrion and beset by a snapping, snarling, Ser'Racha, the dusty spirit ducked a blow from Cade's staff—only for the halfling monk to slip behind it and catch the undead entity in a chokehold. With his hands behind it's spectral shoulders and the back of his arm pressing against it's ghostly throat, Cade drove backwards until both the spirit's neck and it's will were broken. As the spiritual force composing it's form popped like a soap bubble, Cade swiftly placed an empty jar beneath the dissipating phantom to collect any ectoplasmic residue it might leave behind.
Following a brief discussion, the group decided to investigate the last remaining room on this level before descending the hidden staircase. Exiting the library through the eastern door—the only entrance that had not been barricaded—knight Treize remembered his earlier discovery and pulled the rug in the hallway back to reveal a gaping hole directly above the disgusting, mold-filled pantry on the first floor.
Studiously avoiding this, the group entered the next room to find it nearly identical to the one on the other side of the library. Both contained a scattering of windows, wall tapestries, and a ring of mysterious runes inscribed on the floor that were partially obscured by an ancient, worn rug. When moving this carpet, however, the group found it stiff with what appeared to be dried blood, which had soaked through the fibers and adhered to the floor, leaving behind ghastly stains.
The party also noticed the rather spectacular view from the room's windows, as the setting sun cast it's light across the forest and the mountains to the south. Looking out, they could see the bare trees surrounding the clearing gradually give way to greener foliage more appropriate to the current season. The one exception to this was a winding band of autumnal-looking trees running east along the foot of the mountains, appearing to follow a stream which could occasionally be glimpsed between their bare, brown boughs.
Despite Dixn's suggestion that they stop to rest for the night, the party continued down the spiral staircase, finding themselves in a hidden room behind the kitchen on the south side of the structure. A sealed door lay to their right, presumably an entrance to the kitchen which had been hidden behind the barrels they remembered seeing stacked against that wall, while another lay ahead to the east. Further investigation revealed this door had no handle, but a hidden catch caused it to swing open, revealing a secret armory full of similarly shattered spears—and one which remained intact.
Discovering that the intact spear was magical, Zakariya began performing a ritual to identify it's enchantment as the others finished looking around. A concealed door at the other end of the armory led to another short passage containing a second door to the kitchens and a broad stairway leading down into darkness.
After about an hour, during which time the others were able to open the two side doors and confirm they led to the kitchen, Razi was able to identify the weapon as a Spear of the Hunt—a magical weapon whose enchantment can mark any creature it strikes so that it's wielder may follow them.
Despite continued concerns that they should camp for the night—especially now that the sun had finished setting—the party decided to venture down into the deep, dark, dreary depths, to see what dangers and demons (and possibly deaths) awaited in the dungeons below….
- Spear of the Hunt
(Currently attuned to Cade)
This bronze-headed spear must be attuned to a specific wielder, and counts as a magic weapon for them. In addition, once per day on a successful hit, it's wielder can mark the creature struck as a bonus action. This mark is invisible, and lasts for 24 hours (unless dispelled or otherwise suppressed), or until the wielder uses it to mark a different target. While the mark remains active, the wielder gains advantage on any Wisdom (Perception) or Wisdom (Survival) check to find the creature bearing it.
Session XP: 650
Inspiration: Treize, for continuing to charge in and face his enemies head-on, in keeping with his character's personality and motivations.
GM Note: Unless something unexpected happens, everyone should level up again by the end of the next session—or the session after, at the latest. So you might want to start planning out your options for level 5, if you haven't already.