The stairs descended into a plain room of mortared stones. The walls dripped with condensation, giving the air a cold, clammy feel. In the distance they could hear the sound of running water.
Outside was a corridor running to the north. Where it opened out ahead there was a dim red glow of some hidden fire. The corridor itself was cut by an underground stream, with a simple plank bridge lying on the far side. On the near side was a simple bell.
Checking instead a door to the west revealed a natural cavern some thirty feet across and fifteen feet high. A waterfall poured in through a small aperture high on the south wall, filling a turbulent pool in the floor and sending a cold spray throughout the room. A smoothed ledge extended outward from the door, and two large barrels had been set to the right of it. Another ledge sat on the far side of the pool. A smaller cask sats on this ledge, next to a heavy wooden door.
“Let’s leave this for now” said Ragnar, and taking a running leap jumped across the stream to the corridor beyond, and then quietly set the plank bridge in place. Having done this he crept forward towards the red glow.
As he approached the room it seemed oppressively hot compared to the rest of the cellars. A coal furnace roared in the far wall, giving the room a dull red glow. A heap of coal was stacked against the east wall. An iron door opened in the ceiling above the coal pile. Three crude beds made of poorly cured bearskins and wolf pelts had been thrown on the floor before the fire. A hogshead rested between them, next to the bloody bones of some unfortunate creature. Staring straight towards him were two huge figures, wrapped heavily in furs and woolen caps.
“Blimey!” said one of the Trolls. “It’s a little ’un! Ketch it quick ’Arry!”
“Oh dear” thought Ragnar, well aware that the others were well behind him negotiating the plank bridge. But ’Arry moved forward with surprising speed, and he found himself engaged.
A lucky blow from Ragnar’s sword sent the troll reeling, but he noted that its wounds seemed to be quickly re knitting themselves.
""Quick! Quick!" he yelled. “Trolls: need fire!”
Ungo managed to rush forward towards the fray, followed by Rasha and AIlukka, now relying pretty much on Trollsplitter or her Wand of Fire: possibly the right tool for the job. One of the things lunged at Ragnar and bit deep, and Ungo took a crushing blow as he ran in close to engage. At the rear Dinald, his eyes now bandaged, shouted to ask what was going on.
But the first troll was down with a combination of blows and a victim of their own bad luck. As its wounds knitted Ailukka fried it with a gout of flame.
Beset by everyone now (excepting Dinald), the remaining troll fought fiercely, but was eventually overwhelmed. A flask of alchemist’s fire burned the thing as it sought to regenerate.
“We are in really bad shape” said Rasha, " We could do with a rest."
“We can’t really rest here” replied Ragnar. “If we do they’ll become alerted and call in reinforcements-that raven has already escaped. We need to do this quick or never.”
Using a few of their slim cache of remaining potions they looked towards a wooden door to the west.
As Eiravel opened it she saw a lit room with a ceiling rising twenty feet overhead, its heavy beams serving as both rafters and supports for the great hall above. Teak paneling covered the walls, and the floor was of polished wood. Along the walls, wooden columns rose to the ceiling above, bearing banners emblazoned with pictograms from far-off Tian Xia. Above these hung small oil lamps that gave off a dim glow. A small porcelain bowl rested before the center column to the south, and four reed mats were arranged before it.
“It’s a Dojo” said Ragnar, in mild surprise. He nodded towards a row of doors along the north wall, and the group quietly moved inside. They all failed to notice the four silent forms dropping quietly to the floor from the dark rafters above.
Two were native Ulfen, and the others showed unmistakable Tian heritage. They wore only simple black robes, and carried a throwing spear. These they flung at Ungo and Uksahkka before closing unarmed. Their fists and feet struck with lightning speed and the fight was on. Rasha fired his arrows, which the attackers seemed able to deflect with their hands.
As combat was joined a door in the far end of the room entered and a graceful female form, masked and dressed in black entered. In one hand was a slim blowpipe, but she instead threw three tiny shuriken at Ungo, which cut into his shoulder but then seemingly caused his cloths to smoke and burn, as he gasped with pain. She seemed elusive and hard to hit,as she dealt painful blows to her foes.
The original four assailants were all down now, but both Ungo and Ragnar were being severely pummelled, with Ungo’s sleeve now fully ablaze. Behind them Eiravel attempted to keep them on their feet with the final few charges from the healing wand. Rasha drew Vigilant and all attempted to surround their ferocious attacker. Rasha finally managed to get a powerful strike in, and she darted hateful eyes before making a quick gesture. There was a puff of stinking, smoking cloud and they gasped and rubbed their eyes. When they looked again their opponent was nowhere to be seen.
Ungo was dragged back to the corridor and his arm plunged into the icy stream, where he gasped with relief. They made what healing efforts they could, fortunately finding a handful of spare healing draughts in the quarters to the north.
Beyond the Dojo they discovered another room-apparently the quarters of some mage: Goti Runecaster perhaps. They rummaged for scrolls and potions, and also discovered a wand. Further along the corridor another set of steps led down.
“We should check that water chamber first” said Ragnar. “I feel we might have missed something important.”
Tramping back Ragnar did a running leap and managed to get across. The wooden door was locked however. Eiravel attempted to use one of the barrels as a raft, but this was a hopeless task and she plunged into the icy water.
Dragging herself out near Ragnar and her teeth chattering, she opened the lock within a matter of seconds. She cast an illumination spell and she and Ragnar looked in, revealing an empty room with a small well at the far side. Ailukka had warned them earlier that she sensed some powerful magic in here.
As the pair moved in Eiravel caught a hint of movement above her. She shouted something and managed to sidestep something which plopped from the ceiling. And then something covered her head and wrapped cold coils around her neck, and she was gasping for breath.
Ragnar found himself in exactly the same situation, and he tore frantically at whatever it was attempting to smother him. It’s flesh was repulsive and slug like, but in a matter of seconds he had clawed the thing way, and then attacked the one smothering Eiravel. As he ripped it off she started to scream at the top of her lungs, and then stamp and crush at the two which had missed, and were slowly crawling away from them across the floor.
eventually they moved across to the well@ an ornate sword on Tian design seemed lodged down the narrow shaft- as though perhaps it had been carelessly tossed down.
It seemed that a voice spoke inside Ragnar’s head.
“I am Suishen. Rescue me” the voice seemd to say.
“I think we’ve found it!” called Ragnar.