Helping the soggy paladin to the beach, Foradjinn told him of his sudden idea on how to cross the lake. The pair were interrupted by another splash and the appearance of Sylarese. Concerned by Kavendethes’s fall, the wizard dove in after him. All scarce had time to heal and dry off when a familiar short form also splashed into the lake from the waterfall.
Having witnessed Kaven fall and Syl jump in to rescue him, Alston had attempted to return back across the boulder. One false step swung him to faceplant on the opposite rock face four feet above the churning waters. With a sigh, he had released the rope to follow his friends down the river. Meanwhile, Kraggog, having witnessed his bounty fall and the rest of the company follow, facepalmed and decided to go home.
Walking back the way he had come after polishing off the rest of his steaks, Kraggog was staggered to find Kaven alive on the beach.
Alston, after his battering trip down the river, decided to swim out to the submerged buildings on the lake. Anxious to provide backup and test his theory the buildings were indeed the armory, Foradjinn tried to row the table out. His pathetic efforts spurred pity within Syl, who cast expeditious retreat upon himself and pushed the table along. Foradjinn cast bear strength upon him to assist and the pair fairly flew across the deeps.
Just in time. Halfway across the lake, the swimming gnome rogue spotted something else beneath the surface – a long shape creating a wake behind him. As he reached the nearest drowned building, the shape reached out and snatched hold of his leg. Fangs glittering in the shaft of light from above, an enormous watersnake struck down at him.
Syl attempted to ram the snake with the table, veins coursing with the heretofore unknown strength. Foradjinn flanked the snake, healing Alston and lashing out to provide aid. With a ray of frost from his new perch upon the roof, Syl entered the fray. Eventually, Alston struck the killing blow.
Leaping into the water, Syl sunk with the dead snake. After failing to pull a fang out of the snake’s mouth, he turned to scope out the submerged level of the building. Through a shattered window, he discovered rotted beds, tables, bookshelves, and the usual detritus of a town in ruins. He and Alston struck out for the next buildings while Foradjinn heard shouting back the way they came.
Back on the beach, the dragonborn and paladin waited, the former disliking water and the latter not desiring to re-enter due to his armor. Kraggog bellowed out, demanding an update. Squinting across to the building beyond, Foradjinn saw Syl dive and reappear, dropping a shining shield atop the roof. “Treasure!” the bard roared back, taking to the table once again to assist.
Indeed, amidst racks of rusted weapons and tarnished armor, Syl swam and discovered a chest alongside a cabinet, both untouched. Within, he discovered a shield, four horseshoes, a green cloak, and a green necklace, all unmarred by time or water.
Returning at last to the beach, the jubilant three handed the shield to Kaven. By this time, Kraggog’s had bored out a small hollow in the nearby cave wall with firebolt, the tedium of his waiting now a testament for the ages among all who would traverse there.
Following a short rest, the group carried the table to the span across the river and used it to cross. Beyond, another cave revealed two more passages. Down one, according to Syl and Sai, a massive stalagmite rested in a vast cavern. One tunnel beyond that led to an unframed, crude door set at the end.
By now, Foradjinn was feeling the exhaustion again and could not tell which way to go. After a whispered conference with Kraggog, the dragonborn sorcerer and half-elf bard flipped a coin, attempting to pass off the result as their professional opinion.
The others were not impressed, and after an extended quarrel, headed down the tunnel to the stalagmite room. Kraggog approached it, wondering if it smelled like gold. As he neared, thick ropy tendrils shot out, grabbing at the party. Kraggog was grappled and pulled toward a gaping maw which bit at him. Soon, most of the party was grappled and drawn near save for Syl who had ducked back out of the considerable range to cast spells from afar.
Taking advantage of most of the party being grappled in close proximity, Kaven cast bless. Kraggog broke out some of his spells as well as his trademark flamebreath, the creature looking charred and jittery from a successful lightning bolt. Syl managed a successful phantasmal force and the creature retreated from a spectral elf barbarian with flaming fists, dragging its captives with it. However, the illusion pursued and dealt the killing blow. Which was admittedly confusing to the rest who could not see it.
Foradjinn retrieved some fangs from the corpse before a bloodied and frustrated Kraggog mutilated the dead creature. Alston stealthed towards the door, his efforts ruined by an eager Foradjinn falling into Syl behind him.
Peeking through a crack in the door, Alston could see little else besides a normal door on the opposite wall which, unlike the cave around them, was comprised of hewn stone. When the bard stumbled behind him, a soft female voice called out from within, “Who’s there?”
When Alston hesitated, Foradjinn opened the door to reveal a homey interior. The inside was lit with a woodstove and blue-lit lamps. Flitting around the lamps, some moths cast flickering shadows now and then. A rabbit and some other small woodland creatures wandered around the edges of the room. A rug covered part of the floor and three rocking chairs clustered in the center near the fire. In one of the chairs sat a beautiful blond-haired human clad in an emerald green dress.
Through cautious interrogation the party found out the stranger, Mel, lived in the ruins with her two sisters. The creature outside was their guardian since “normal beings” didn’t get along with the three. A thoroughly suspicious Alston questioned the rabbit to the amusement and admiration of the woman, while Syl stepped out to cast detect magic. Outside the room, Kaven found nothing with divine sense. Kraggog sniffed the fire and pronounced it good.
Foradjinn revealed their quest for the original Sword of Haré. The woman arose, left through one of the three openings across the room, and returned a moment later with a blade almost exactly like the one he carried. Unlike his, however, the old one emitted a soft grey glow.
“May I have it?” Foradjinn asked.
Thrown off guard by the ease of the answer, the bard blinked. “Is there something I may do for you in return?”
Mel smiled. “Yes.”
“What is that?”
Mel refused to expound upon the details and Foradjinn hesitated, not wanting to endanger Anaya. While he thought, the woman turned to Alston, interested in his ability to speak with small beasts. It was one of her sisters who had created the leather ball they had found. “What does it show?”
“Tragedy,” Mel laughed.
During the course of the conversation, the gnome rogue capitalizing on her interest to exchange information, it was revealed Mel found the sword in the treasury before it collapsed, motioning toward one of three openings.
At the mention of this, Kraggog exploded in irritation and bolted for it. Before he could reach it, the rabbit’s shape warped and transformed into a revolting, towering old crone. “Leaving so soon, deary?” it rasped at the surprised dragonborn. Kraggog cast firebolt in shock but with a wave of her hand, Mel frowned as the spell sputtered away. “None of that. We’re not going to hurt you.”
“No deal,” said Foradjinn, turning and heading for the door. Alston and Syl continued to bargain while Kraggog glowered at the hags. The new hag, Lya, and Polly, the third transforming from her form as one of the moths near the lamp, loomed over them. “Come, come, we don’t want to hurt you,” they promised.
Foradjinn paused, hand clenched hard around Anaya’s amulet, the hard edges cutting his palm. “Kraggog, let me borrow that coin again,” he muttered.
“I don’t remember which one it was.”
“Fine, just give me one. I’ll give it back.” Foradjinn took it and flipped it. He clenched his teeth at the result, returned the coin, and stepped back into the lair. “The favor must not affect this certain person to which I am indebted,” he announced.
“As long as I don’t have to outline the details of the favor at this point,” Mel returned, “Then, yes, we have a deal.”“Understood.” Foradjinn took the sword.
“You’re an idiot,” rumbled Kraggog.
The bard nodded and left the lair, shoulders hunched.
Alston turned to the sisters and rubbed his hands together. “What else do you have for trade?”
Brightening, the sisters cackled; Polly and Lya retrieved a short rod and a gemmy necklace. Lya clicked a button on the rod and released it in midair. It hovered, not moving even when Alston swung from it and Syl pushed at it. Polly offered to demonstrate the necklace to Kraggog. The dragonborn sorcerer refused, even when promised it would heal him. Instead, Alston took her up on the offer and, indeed, when rubbing one of the large beads upon it, many of his cuts and wounds closed over.
Outside the room, Foradjinn took Kaven out of earshot. “I need to help me Kaven. If the favor I must do is evil, you must kill me.” He held out his bleeding hand. “You’re stronger than I am, so if it is a terrible thing I must do, then…”
With a grave expression, the paladin nodded and shook his hand.
Tempted by the artifacts, the rest of the party nevertheless refused further deals. “Well, you know where we are, dearies,” they grinned. As the dragonborn, elf, and gnome left, the dragonborn “accidentally” blew smoke into the room.
Alston and Syl debated attacking the sisters and taking the artifacts by force. Foradjinn was less than enthusiastic, anxious to leave and deliver the sword, scythe, and staff to the monastery and then continue his search for Anaya. They tabled the idea for the moment and headed toward the entrance, Syl and Alston once again taking the faster option down the river with whoops of enthusiasm.
Forty-five minutes later, they entered into day once again. Blinking in the sunlight they had not seen in some time, they turned to look up at the imposing Mount Alverston to the northeast.