It’s still dark out when Toshio goes around to the others, waking each in turn. He notices the spot Keng had slept on is empty, and finds him waiting outside, already geared-up. “No breakfast for you, Keng? It’ll be a bit before the others are ready, even without a hot breakfast.”
Jethrik walks outside with a cup of tea. He lights his pipe and blows a long spiraling smoke trail. “Going somewhere so early? Ugh, duty calls, I suppose!”
Going back inside, Toshio makes sure the others are getting ready. “Can anyone here cook? You might not like what I’d do for breakfast, ‘though it would be nourishing.”
Over breakfast Zeyala announces, “Pharasma has granted me her blessings. Even before I completed my evening prayers, I could feel my powers growing, and that’s not all. Watch this.” She begins rummaging around, and then finally asks, “Walthus, do you have an empty bucket?”
Proudfoot nods, goes upstairs to rummage around in his storage room and comes back down bearing a wooden bucket.
“Pharasma, quench our thirst,” she prays. With her chant, the bucket fills up with clean, pure water. “There’s more.” She points to a plate with a loaf of moldy bread on it and says, “Pharasma’s blessings.” The bread becomes fresh as if it had just been baked.
Proudfoot laughs and says, “Bright, that’s defo a neat trick.”
Jethrik looks at the bread with a bit of uncertainty ”Maybe so, but I ain’t eatin’ it.”
“Suit yourself,” says Zeyala and cuts off a slice.
Jharad happily eats his fill of breakfast, during which he commands, “Luz,” and tosses a lighted stone to Jethrik. “Ask and you will receive master comedian.”
A warm glow appears over Jharad’s head. “What a bright idea to study that!” says Jethrik.
“Can you set the rest of us up like that?” Toshio asks. “We certainly need the light. Except Keng, of course.”
“A caster may only have one light cantrip going at a time.” Jethrik shrugs “Which is why it’s good that Jharad has it available today.”
“Pity. Well, at least it’s something,” says Toshio.
“Actually, I don’t need light either,” says Zeyala. “You remember when we were rowing through the fog? You could see maybe ten feet? Fifteen? Then everything beyond is obscured? That’s how it is for me. I can see up to that rock,” she says pointing to the wall some thirty feet away. “Beyond that, its all fuzzy and impossible for me to make out. However, to that distance, I see equally well in either light or darkness. Actually, there’s no difference for me. That’s why I was able to last as long as I did with Jharad when the lights were out. And I wasn’t overly relying on my other senses. I could see everything in that arena, though not much beyond.”
After a few moment she adds, “Pharasma blessed me with the ability to create water and purify food. I’m sure she would grant me the ability to cast light. I never thought of asking her because I never had a use for it. If you think it’s useful, I could appeal to her in my prayers to gain that ability.”
Toshio responds, “That would be useful, at least to some of us who don’t have such advantages.”
After they’ve gotten ready and eaten (he keeps things short, but waits until there’s enough light to see by), Toshio gets them to the boats. “Here we go again. No need to rush though. Let’s see what the marsh shows us as we make our way.”
As they head over to the boats they see that a white fog has rolled in almost lazily before dawn, and covers the ground as the world wakes up. The sun rises as they row, casting a slow spread of light that filters through the cloud and turns it to a red-gold as time passes. The mist recoils as if it was alive and remains as a stubborn thin blanket across the ground while the sounds of birds and animals begin to filter through the cool crisp air. The fog creeps and crawls, following the edges of twisted trees and stagnant water. (Adapted from Bits of the Wilderness: Into the Swamp, p. 30)
They find the caves easily enough through the fog with Proudfoot’s sure guidance. He warns them that even though they killed the giant spider that had been there another denizen of the marsh might have moved in so they should be on their guard. Jharad casts a new light spell on a new stone found at random just outside of the cave. Likewise, Jethrik is copying Jharad’s trick of using light on a stone and floats it around him.
They find the caves abandoned except for the rotting carcasses of the spider and the gecko it had been devouring the day before when they came upon it. The cave where the skeletons had attacked them is likewise empty and still.
At the shore of the flooded area, prodding its depths, Jharad says quietly “Toshio, we should investigate this pool before turning our backs on it and moving on. At least a couple skeletons had risen from its depths before.”
Jethrik replies, “Right. Good idea. Can you use your light and mage hand to do so? Keng, please keep watch on the other entrances. The rest of us will watch the water, in case anything stirs.”
Jethrik sends his stone below the surface of the water to illuminate it without reflecting the light. The pool of water turns out to only be 3 feet deep, and currently devoid of any skeletons or anything else of interest that can be seen by the light of the stone.
Jharad says, “I will check it out, cover me.”
“Wait,” says Zeyala. “A little insurance.” She reaches out and touches Jharad on the arm.
He wades out into the middle of the flooded area and carefully makes his way around the corner to see where it leads. He constantly probes in front and around him with the staff to check for sudden drops. He discovers that it soon ends in a cul-de-sac and so quickly returns to report and asks, “Jethrik, dry my pants if you would. I have not the skill today to perform such things.”
Jethrik snorts and giggles.
Toshio says, “I only see your lights… no threats. Let’s go on to the west. Standard order, please.”
Looking at the northward passage in the middle of the cavern Jharad says. “This passage most likely connects with the fork we passed before entering this cavern. That leaves the passage at the far side. What do you think, Toshio?”
Looking back from close to the western cave mouth, Toshio says, I agree. I think this is our next path to explore.”
Toshio leads them to the western opening. They find it leads into a narrow tunnel only about 5′ at the widest and roughly north for 40 feet. It ends in another partially flooded cavern and in the middle of it another skeletal samurai sits motionless atop a large jade and cherry wood chest.
Keng mutters to Toshio who is standing next to him, “I see another skeleton laying on the ground ahead. I hate those damn things. Perhaps we attack from afar to test if more will rise? If they do, you and I move just inside the cave for a flank attack while the others fight from the safety of the tunnel mouth.”
“Good thinking, Keng.” Turning to the others, Toshio whispers, “Another skeleton is ahead. We should cast any fortifying spells now. Keng and I will move left and right of the tunnel so the rest of you can hit it with blunt arrows. When it is close enough, Keng and I will intercept and flank it so it can’t reach the archers. If other skeletons rise, Zeyala can be ready with that trick she did yesterday. Questions or ideas?
When they are ready, Toshio moves to the right of the passage and lets Keng move to the left.
Jharad takes the lighted stone in hand he intones “Escudo” and a shimmering translucent shield encompasses him. Then moving in to cover Keng and Toshio he readies to fire at the skeleton.
Before Jharad can get in position the skeleton leaps off the chest and draws its decidedly non-rusty wakizashi. He points the tip of the blade at Toshio, as if issuing a challenge, and then slashes at him, cutting his left hand deeply.
In a fury, Keng hacks at the skeletal champion and takes off its right foot, causing the thing to limp but not otherwise impeding its continued efforts to kill Toshio.
“May blessings of Pharasma guide your hands!” shouts Zeyala.
Jharad drops his bow, draws his morningstar, simultaneously charging it with arcane energy, closes with the skeleton and proceeds to batter it with his weapon, releasing a discharge of electricity that crackles around the undead creature, causing it to spasm and clack its jaws.
“Somebody buy that guy a cheeseburger!” Jethrik quips.
Toshio swings his flail at it, intending to smite it, but the skeleton recovers from Jharad’s blow and ducks beneath it. It then thrusts its sword into Toshio’s stomach. The noble paladin falls, a pool of blood spreading out beneath him.
Jharad shouts, “Keng flank it.”
Keng shifts to his right, attempting to get around the skeleton. He hits it again, but fails to cut through its armor or break any more of its bones.
Then, incredibly, Jethrik sneaks in between Jharad and Keng and bashes the skeleton with his club in the knees, causing it to collapse to the floor and lie still. The evil energy that kept it animated dissipating at last.
“Golly,” says the gnome. He stands numbly, swishing his club back and forth practicing the motion of striking with it.
“Toshio!” shouts Zeyala as she moves to his side. “May your wounds be healed,” she prays.
Once more, at the touch of Zeyala, Toshio revives. “Toshio, take care! You are still wounded,” says Zeyala.
Toshio is eager to examine the wakizashi used to wound him so, but makes himself stay still. “Of course, of course. Thank you again. I’ll just wait ‘til you’re done. Unless someone wishes to hand me that keen-edged blade?” he says, gesturing to the wakizashi.
Zeyala applies another healing touch to Toshio. “You’ll probably feel better after you’ve had a chance to rest, but that should take care of you for now,” she says.
As Zeyala tends to Toshio, Jharad begins casting detect magic on the chest.
“Thank you, dear lady” says Toshio weakly. He pushes himself into a sitting position. “I feel terrible.”
Looking around he sees that the skeleton has been undone. “Good work, Keng” he says nodding in gratitude. “Thank you for covering me.”
Keng looks down at Toshio and seeing he will live says, “Let me know if you would like some weapons training. You’re actually supposed to block an attack.”
“Oh no, not at all” replies Toshio. “It was all an elaborate ruse, intended to open the way for your successful assault. See how well it worked?”
Keng laughs at Toshio’s excellent retort, glad he is alive. Keng extends his hand to help him up. “Let’s go make sure the elf doesn’t blow us up!”
“That was funny,” Jethrik says. “You said something funny! I landed a killing blow in combat.” He shakes his head. “What a day!”
Jharad comments slowly while concentrating on finding magical traps, “Yes it was quite a feat to see Jethrik leap into battle like that. Who knew its weakness would be the knees.”
“What?” asks Toshio, a bit confused for a moment. “You were the one to finish it off? Oh, well then… I’m sorry I missed it. Well done Jethrick. Please tell me how it came about.”
Standing back up Jharad says, “No magical traps that I can detect, though if I were making the trap it would be undetectable by that manner. Unless Killer here,” he motions to Jethrik, “has some more tricks up his sleeve I suggest Keng opens it. Unless Toshio would like to lull it into submission first, since that worked so well just now.”
“Yes, please!” says Toshio with exaggerated enthusiasm. “I’ll just set it up to… oh wait! Zey hasn’t enough healing power to save me from a monster like that chest. I guess you’ll just have to open it without my help.”
Keng growls, “You all are a bunch of women!” Keng then strides quickly over to the chest to throw it open. The rest of the party can’t see but he does grimace and cringe slightly as he does so…
Jethrik darts between him and the chest. “Let’s take the whole thing back unopened. The chest itself is valuable, so we don’t want to leave it behind.”
Toshio says, “Of course we’ll take it. But let’s take a few moments to explore its contents here – or rather, in the sunlight. But even before that, we need to finish checking the rest of these caverns.”
“Keng, Jethrik has a point,” says Zeyala. You’ve been asking about treasure. The chest itself could probably fetch a share amount of coin, as long as its not damaged.”
“Jethrik, if it’s trapped,” asks Zeyala, “what could happen if the chest is opened?”
“Anything.” Jethrik shrugs. “It all depends on how badly the owner wants to protect the contents, or avenge the looting. I’m thinking that whatever is in there is valuable enough that these guys,” he points at the skeleton, “stuck around after they were dead just to protect it. So who knows? Poison needles, powerful spells. Anything could be set to go off when the chest is opened. Safest thing to do is take it back to town and get a burg… locksmith to open it.”
“Fine…” grumbles Keng, “I will carry it.”
Jethrik, having made his point and not wanting to stay between a half orc and his treasure, turns his attention to the skeleton and its weapon. “Hold up the fancy knife,” Jethrik asks Toshio.
Toshio moves to pick up the wakizashi and examines it. “You joke right? This is a wakizashi, not a knife.”
Jharad puts out a hand to stop Toshio from picking it up. “Toshio, let me discern the blade’s powers and possible negative factors before you handle it,” he says as he directs his magical detection towards the object and its previous owner.
Jehtrik and Jharad both determine that the blade is emanating a faint magical aura of a type associated with abjuration magic. Abjurations are protective spells that create physical or magical barriers, negate magical or physical abilities, harm trespassers, or even banish the subject of the spell to another plane of existence. Gnome and elf both discern that not only is the blade enhanced for combat but it can also cast the spell shield other once a day when the magical command word to do so is uttered. The blade itself is of an incredibly beautiful design. It is etched with images of seven shrikes perched on a coiling branch that runs the length of the blade. Unfortunately, the blades hilt (Toshio knows it as a tsuka) has not weathered the passage of time as well as the blade itself, and when it fell to the cave floor it became loose. The resulting loose grip due to the broken pommel will hinder anyone who tries to wield it until it is repaired.
Nothing else of magic is detected in the cave, though the skeleton is wearing broken down masterwork kikko armor, the kind of armor Toshio had previously been wearing. A bronze key is also found on a chain around its neck.
“With a good deal of polishing – and a mending spell, that armor may be quite serviceable again,” Toshio says.
Jharad says, “Okay Toshio, you can pick the sword up now. The weapon is enhanced for combat and can cast the shield other spell once per day. The pommel is broken, but can be fixed by a simple cantrip.”
“I think ‘tang’ might be a more appropriate word” comments Toshio, already checking to see just what needs to be fixed.
Ripping the key off the skeletons neck, Jharad hands it to Keng saying, “See if you can beat the chest open with this.”
“Funny elf,” Keng says. But he does take the key and puts it around his neck. He also takes the first and middle knuckle bones from the samurai skeleton and put them in his pouch with the goblin chief’s.
“Keng, this was a samurai. Please don’t defile it by making trophies of its parts. He deserves better. It’s not a respectful thing to do.” Realizing he’ll get nowhere and not ready to get into a brawl or drawn out discussion, Toshio just shakes his head, wondering at the practices of foreigners.
Toshio finishes his examination of the blade (as well as he can in the dim light), sheaths it and tucks it into his belt in an easy, unthinking motion. “Let’s leave the chest until we check the rest of the cavern. It will be safe enough until we come back, and I don’t think we’ll be long.” Toshio also plans to get the armor when they come back for the chest.
“Agreed,” says Jharad and readies himself for further exploration.
They find that the northern tunnel out of the cave where they initially fought the skeletons goes on for about 35’ before branching to the right and left. The right hand passage curves around for 15’ and joins the tunnel they took south from the spider’s cave. The left hand passage continues for 20’ to the only unexplored cave. This cave is only 15’ in diameter. In it a number of glittering crystals protrude from an island surrounded by a pool of dark water of unknown depth.
Keng says, “Those crystals might be worth something.”
“Jethrick or Jharad, can you do that light trick again to plumb these waters? But be careful – I’m developing a dislike of such ‘calm’ pools.”
Jharad steps up next to Keng and floats his lighted stone out over the water and crystal island. “Go on Keng don’t be a woman,” he quips and smiles widely at the half-orc.
Keng snorts, “I can’t swim.”
Jharad lets out a loud guffaw at his friend, and then quickly quiets down. “Who would have known, given the way I have seen you dive into a mug of ale.”
Getting back to business Jharad asks Toshio, “Okay, what now?”
Toshio requests, “Jharad, check the depth with you light, please.”
Jharad steps up to edge, next to Keng and maneuvers the light stone into the water to test its depths.
“Jharad, can you also detect for magic?” asks Zeyala.
The lighted stone shows that the depth of this pool is 5’. It appears to be empty at first, but then there is a movement in the water as the light disturbs something in its depths. Before Jharad can respond to Zeyala, translucent watery ooze surges up out of the water in an attempt to engulf the feet of Jharad as he stands on the pool’s edge.
Jharad pounces and electrifies the ooze with his morningstar.
Keng begins hacking at it with his axe until it is nothing more than small quivering pieces that soon lie still. Then he yells, “Burn it!”
Jharad wipes ooze goo from his morningstar with a summoned rag then does a sweep of the cavern with detect magic. “I am not detecting any sources of magic in this cave, Zey,” he replies.
Keng wades over to the center island and starts filling his pack with crystals.
Toshio wades across and collects the crystals, careful not to fall in. “Let’s go back and get the chest.”
“With the chest and these crystals, we should have a nice little war chest,” Zeyala says. ”I can’t wait to see what’s inside.”
Outside, once the chest is opened, it’s obvious that many objects (mostly fireworks and potions) have been removed from numerous slots in the chest’s well-lined interior – the handiwork of the Licktoad goblins. However, the chest still holds (what they later determine to be) five potions of cure light wounds, two potions of cure moderate wounds, three potions of lesser restoration, a ring of climbing, a wand of identify with 19 charges, a masterwork chain shirt, a masterwork cold iron wakizashi, 11 Desnan candles, and four skyrockets, in addition to 3,820 silver pieces, 421 gold pieces, and various pieces of fine jewelry that Sandru later tells them are worth 560 gold pieces in total.
The crystals collected in the cave turn out to be worth 20 gold pieces in total.
Jharad says, “I will take one of the moderate healing potions. That wand is redundant for me. I suggest we sell it. The cold steel knife also, unless Toshio needs a second one.”
“Before we split the treasure, I propose that we first set aside general items that benefit the group as a whole,” suggests Zeyala. “Like those potions. What do the rest of you think?
“I agree,” replies Keng. “I would like the climbing ring. We sell the rest and split it evenly.”
“Jharad, I’m in agreement about the wand. We definitely should sell that,” Zeyala says.
Jharad nods, “Agreed.”
“Agreed,” says Tosho. “And good thinking, but let’s do so in town.”
Jehtrik says, “Yes, I think we should all carry a potion of curing. Heaven forbid someone should need healing when you are not around, or perhaps even you yourself. I’ve already done well on the treasures” He pats his new chain shirt. “You folks get first dibs. Although, I really like the idea of these fireworks” Jethriks flashes a mischievous grin.
Toshio says, “I think I’ll need a strong healing potion if my luck doesn’t improve. Maybe a weaker one, too. I’d prefer to keep the cold steel blade. I’ll replace it with my own, normal blade. But I’m sure the cold steel will be more useful to us than just steel.”
Jharad looks at the cold steel knife and the magic one already in Toshio’s belt. “Do you really need both?”
Toshio responds, “Unlikely, but it is better than my current blade, and I don’t know that I can afford repairs to this one. Until it is fixed it is not a good choice.”
Keng snidely adds, “More isn’t always better but if it makes him feel better let him have his toys.”
“Mr. Proudfoot, would you like a lift into town, or shall we drop you at your home?” Toshio asks the halfling hermit. “We’re heading to town after seeing you safely to your home, unless you’d prefer to come with us.”
“Ay think I’ve ‘ad blewdy-nuff advente fe de past few days, ta dead much. Please juss drop me off at my place so Ay tinnie get some welt and tend ter me pets.”
Keng asks Proudfoot, “You crazy hobbit living out here all by yourself! Do you need anything fixed before we leave you be?”
“Nah, I’m sound. Ta fe ask’n. All ay want now is some peace and mumtip.”
As the boats are heading back to Proudfoot’s, Zeyala says, “Keng, I mean not to lecture, so please do not take this the wrong way, but I would ask that you show just a bit more restraint. We’re all excited to learn the contents of the chest, but trying to throw it open by brute force was risky and could have been potentially dangerous. The traps that Jethrik described should serve as warning. Think of how a fireball would render any treasure inside the chest, let alone those of us standing near it.
Keng rolls his eyes and keeps paddling.
“Then you disagree?” She asks?
“I take it one day at a time,” says Keng.
“Thank you for your honesty,” says Zeyala.