My blood froze as the spider lunged towards me. Casting aside the empty potion bottle I dodged to one side and felt its fangs sink into my backpack, narrowly missing my neck! My cry of alarm must have been heard, as before I could react, Pira’nya lunged into the room and savaged the spider. I hacked at it with my sword, and Khalid quickly joined the fray, killing the foul beast with a hurled stone, which unfortunately resulted in no small amount of ichor splattering my clothing and armour!
The room had an exit on the far side, but it proved to be swollen shut and impossible to open. There were some holes in the roof, but the room was still obviously some sort of dining area with tables and chairs.
Khalid headed to search the next room and disturbed another spider. Sheba was hurt in the process, but we managed to overcome that foe also. It was at this point that I heard the sound of breaking furniture from the refectory behind me.
Returning, I came across Nini smashing chairs and piling the broken wood in the center of the room. I scruffed her, and hoisting her to eye level, I asked what she was doing. She said she was making a bonfire to “smoke out the bad things”. Trying to keep things simple for her little gnome brain, i did my best to explain why this was a bad idea – not helped at all by Ding’s overzealous insistence that I drop his sister and leave her alone! She eventually accepted my point of view as being valid, and I lowered her to the floor again and left the gnomes in discussion with each other, choosing instead to follow the rest of my companions who had headed off down a corridor beyond a room which appeared to be a library of some sort.
The passage led to a cloister around a central open-air garden, which was heavily overgrown. The outer wall of the cloister was decorated with a bas-relief showing scenes in which the main protagonists were a male Efreet and and a female Djinn. Khalid said it represented the great Genie War, which devastated the region hundreds of years ago. As he recounted the story it was as if the sounds of the battle permeated my mind…it was so real, but stopped as soon as he stopped relating the tale. Engaging though this was, I was distracted by the sound of rustling from the overgrown garden, and noticed high in the branches of a tall tree, a huge nest. As I watched, I spotted a pair of pugwampis in the nest heft a large egg and hurl it down, where it smashed on the head of Nini. While the pugwampi and his friends cackled from high in the tree, Nini seemed unfazed by the attack and scooped globs of egg off her face and ate them.
In the meanwhile, Vash, Khalid and their animal companions investigated rooms off the cloister. Only moments later I heard a shout for aid from Vash, which identified their foes…Stirges!
I rushed to their aid, to find that Vash and Xuum had already disposed of their assailant, but saw that Khalid and Sheba were both still afflicted by stirges that had attached themselves to their flesh and were draining their blood. I took a bead on the one which was feeding from Khalid, and loosed my arrow, watching with grim satisfaction as the shot skewered the creature, killing it. This allowed Khalid the opportunity to kill the remaining stirge and yank its twitching corpse from Sheba just as she fell unconscious from her wounds. Vash stabilised her and Khalid picked her up, and we headed back towards the library to rest up, inspecting the remainder of the the bas-relief as we went.
On returning to the library, we set ourselves the task of searching the place for interesting manuscripts. Most of the books and scrolls on the shelves were worthless or crumbled to dust when handled, but eventually we found a book that was in much better condition. Entitled “Courts of Stone and Flame” it was a treatise on Genies of the elemental planes. I examined it and determined it to be worth some considerable sum – approximately 300 gold if we can find a buying at some point in the future. Khalid sat down to read it’s contents while I tended to Sheba’s wounds and made sure that she was comfortable. If it be the will of Erastil, she may survive the night and should be on her feet with rest and some further care.
With our focus elsewhere, it was only then that I noticed that the gnomes were absent…where they had got to, I had no idea, but based on their previous behaviour, it could not be a good sign.
True to form, just as we were wondering if we should go and look for them, there was a loud banging on the barricaded door to the library. From the other side we heard the gnomes’ voices, so we let them in, to be greeted by excited faces and the sight of Nini wearing half an egg on her head, which was glowing with light. They were dragging a bag with various items and had a map of corridors that they claimed that they had discovered below the monastery. Amongst the items they showed us were a mace, and a small teak box that was engraved with the holy symbol of Sarenrae. Khalid opened it and inside, on a padded lining was a brooch – Ding said she had checked and it was magical, as was the mace. Extensive discussion ensued, and confusion reigned when they mentioned that they had left a magical dagger behind, in favour of struggling back with a mace!
I suggested that we should rest for a short while, before returning to the catacomb to retrieve the dagger, and take note of any other clues that the gnomes’ over-enthusiastic eyes may have missed. And anyway, Khalid was reading the tome we had found, and was just starting to discover information relating to the five individuals shown on the bas-relief, as well as the identity of the one of those behind whose statue, the gnomes had found the secret door to the crypt. Of course, the gnomes both had different ideas to the rest of us, announcing that they had already entered into an agreement with each other to investigate the nest in the overgrown garden. I argued my case most strongly however, and eventually got them to recognise the sense of a short period of recuperation before venturing into more trouble.