AiS #28: The Thing in the Well

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With the violet fungus slain, the party dragged its limp remains into the light and set about exploring the cellar’s cramped confines. Grogor slowly and carefully searched the room, paying particular attention to the secret door and skeletal remains nearby. The daring rogue recovered eight magical arrows and other odds and ends, but the majority of the slain adventurer’s equipment was beyond salvage. However, he did also find the haft of some kind of weapon buried in the earth. 

Several of the half-orc’s companions joined him and together they recovered the remains along with a mud-encrusted dwarven waraxe of cold iron manufacture. Warg’s eyes lit up at sight of the weapon and he quickly claimed it as his own. 

Now all thoughts turned to the secret door. Sadly is was nearly completely buried, so the party had to dig out the earth surrounding it. This took them about an hour, but once the earth was removed Grogor searched the area and quickly found a small raised stone in the floor that seemed to operate the door. The party were cautious, though. Before charging headlong into whatever lay beyond, they took several hours excavating a path through the earth and other wind-borne detritus so that they could flee if circumstances required. 

Hours later—covered in mud and tired—the party were ready, and Grogor opened the door. Beyond lay a small network of empty caves that gently sloped downward toward the sea. With the exception of some rotting wood and strange holes bored in the wall—the party thought these might be the remains of shelves—the caves seemed empty and abandoned. A final passageway, however, at the rear of the complex sloped steeply downwards toward the sea. After a short while, the party discovered the passageway blocked by a cave-in. Several of the heroes theorised this might be the same cave-in they have encountered in the abandoned smugglers’ hold.

Close examination revealed a single skeletal hand thrusting out of the cave-in, and several of the party felt the passageway was colder than it should be. Orithur’s wolf suddenly whined and moments later an insubstantial shadow slide from the rock fall and caressed Alice. She screamed as her flesh shrivelled and her strength ebbed. After a moment of surprise, the party leapt into action. Unleashing powerful magics they enchanted several of their weapons and lashed the creature which—after its initially successful attack—seemed unable to injure them. In moments, the party’s bravery and magics had brought the creature low—Warg striking the final blow with this new axe.

With the creature—a shadow—slain the party carefully excavated the skeletal remains and recovered some pieces of useable equipment—chiefly a finely balanced rapier and a smashed spyglass.

With this battle, it seemed the party had exhausted the possibilities for adventure below the Purho house and retreated above ground. Here, they encountered their friend Johann who confirmed all was quiet and no-one from the village seemed to be noticing their investigation of the old ruin. 

Now the party decided to investigate the old well. Before getting too close, the heroes decided to break down the wall around the well in case it should collapse into the shaft while one of them was therein. This they quickly did and Orithur then threw a ten-foot pole illuminated with a light spell into the well. It bumped and bashed down into the water far below, illuminating crumbling brickwork covered in yellow moss, mould and other noisome grows. The dropped pole, however, had awakened something in the well. As the party surveyed the scene a skeleton burst from the well’s water. Cover in black slime it looked up at the heroes and began climbing the slippery well wall. 

Cleverly, the party did not panic. Instead, they merely dropped bricks on the skeleton until it was destroyed. A subsequent skeleton emerging from the well’s foul water was similarly despatched. 

By now, the sun was a mere glimmer on the horizon, and deep shadows draped themselves over old ruins. As the shadows deepened, the heroes notices a subtle pale and sickly blue/green light emanating from the well. As they watch it seemed to ripple slightly, but strangely—or perhaps worryingly—Alice could detect no magic in the area.

Grogor was despatched into the well at the end of a knotted rope to see what he could find in the shaft. His slow, careful search of the shaft revealed nothing of interest except for yellowish moss and many misshapen worms writhing through the shaft’s crumbling masonry. At the bottoms of the shaft he discovered the water was about five-foot deep and that a thick layer of slime and silt below that was another three-foot or so deep. Using the pole he discovered many things seemed buried in the mud, but the half-orc was very unkeen to dive into the fetid water to discover what lay therein.

Orithur, now convinced the well was the source of the Blight, called Grogor back up and replaced him on the rope. At the bottom of the shaft, the druid bravely dived under the water. He emerged triumphantly a minute or so later clutching a jagged piece of heavy rock in his hand. 

His triumph was short-lived, however.

Suddenly, the party above noticed a once beautiful woman of possible elven descent lying on the old tree near the well. She had not been there moments ago. Her figure was haggard and her belly horribly distended. She looked at the party and whispered in Common, “So hungry, so hungry”. Warg was having none of it. Whoever this woman was she was clearly unnatural and needed killing. He leapt into action, but the woman was faster. Speaking magic-laced words in a lilting, unknown language she caused the surrounding vegetation to come alive. The grasping thorns and briars caught at the party’s clothes and wrapped themselves around the adventurers’ ankles. Several of the heroes were entangled. While Thangrimm, Veronwe and Grogor started—desperately—to pull Orithur up, Warg leapt at the woman striking her a tremendous blow with his axe. To the dwarf’s dismay her wound started to heal almost instantly. She retaliated with a powerful sleep spell, which Orithur’s wolf failed to resist. Alice then struck the woman with a bolt of magical fire and the woman screamed in pain and rage. 

Johann had been watching the fight and suddenly realised what they were facing—some kind of vampiric dryad! He called out a warning to his friends but by now battle was well and truly joined. As Orithur tried and failed to climb higher up the well’s shaft Thangrimm tied the rope he’d been holding around the fallen tree. As the party closed in on the foul fiend she suddenly disappeared. In an instant, she was gone and Warg’s fiercely swung axe and a thrown vial of holy water that smashed against the tree both failed to injure her. 

As the party looked wildly around for their foe, Orithur fell back down the well—the walls too slippery to climb easily. Still, no matter, at least he was safe in the well as long as the vampire dryad fought his friends…