(7 November 2008)
We are escorted out of the Keep, and are ordered to present ourselves at the Temple of Pelor in the morning. We go off in search of a place to sleep. Finally, a slum stable in the poor northeast quarter of the city. The city is packed with refugees from the advancing kobold army. People are on edge; it isn’t panic, but everyone is aware the attack is coming and it is going to be bad.
We get a description of the city and its walls.
In the morning at the Temple an acolyte lets us in, and we get a briefing on the Catacombs, which are entered via a mausoleum behind the temple, down some stairs, and there is a large finished brickwork circle that houses the urns. That circle needs to be swept for nasty things (either antisocial enough to attack invalids and children, or diseased things that might cause an epidemic) so some of the population can take shelter there. There are no real stories of the history. The churches in the city are well established and old. We are told to expect tens of thousands of urns, maybe more. The history of the city goes back a long time. The Emperor (as a title) goes back more than 2000 years, though the actual Empire has not existed for about 2000 years. It seems likely that there is boatloads of stuff down there, and it doesn’t really match the description we are given. There is speculation that the old Empire stuff has been walled off.
The space is lightable but not lit as we enter. There is a rampant growth of phosphorescent mold everywhere that gives low light. There are torches in the sconces, but they are not lit. The ring we have entered is quite large.
At the bottom of the steps the hallway is 15 feet wide, 8 feet high, and the masonry is well worked: the walls are bricked. The urns are everywhere, making for difficult terrain if we don’t go single file, but the urns are nowhere more than 3 feet high. We make our way counterclockwise along the ring.
The catacombs really are full of urns. There are a few rodents, but not many. Things are in good condition, if old. Most of the urns are pottery, though there are some metal ones.
After about 100 to 150 yards of travel, out of sight of the stairs, we see that there is a break in brickwork low on the outside wall, and darkness behind it. The gap is about 2 feet high and perhaps as big as 2 feet across. We advance and check it out: there is no signs of bricks removed. There is a speace behind, and it is a cave, of indeterminate width, and no far end in sight. There are rat tracks in there, enormous rats, big enough to eat cats. No signs of humanoids. We leave a little bait behind us at the spot, and then continue on the circuit of the ring we were told about. We find no water or sources of water, and no other gaps in the walls, on our traversal of the ring.
When we return to the gap, the food we left behind is gone, and there are more prints left there. The bricks around the gap are mortared in, and several of the bricks are entirely gone; how this was done cannot be determined now. There is some chipping on the mortar at the edge of the gap, but we cannot tell if the chipping was done by beast teeth or by tools. There is no substantial airflow through the gap. We widen it, making an appreciable amount of noise, so we can get in and out more easily. A priest comes from above to check out the noise, and he is not enthusastic about our widening the hole, but after about 15 minutes we get it so all of us, even those in heavy armor, can make it through.
On the far side the floor is down by about 6 inches, and the floor and walls are raw stone which has been worked but not finished. The passage bends off to the right as we enter. This stuff must be old, dating to at least the Empire … there is lots of dust and tracks. We guess that this passage must be 3 or 4 millennia old. Other than the tracks there is no sign of living things. The passage opens up to 15 to 20 feet wide and 8 or 9 feet high, and continues sweeping off to the right. There are no signs of the missing bricks. It seems that the brickwork added to the tunnels was set in without any real concern for the gap.
Relative to the surface, the passage is bending around toward the keep, away from the edge of the bluff on which the city is built. We encounter another passage to the right. The rat tracks continue ahead, not to the right. This area is clean. The branch goes straight for at least 60 feet, as far as we can see … we decide to bypass it and follow the tracks.
We eventually come to a T junction. There are lots and lots of apparently empty shelves, but on inspection there is detritus on the shelves, the decaued remnants of parchment books. None of the books are legible in any way, let alone intact. The stuff has been pawed through and there are rat droppings in a few spots. We move down the left branch and encounter rats … LOTS of rats, and combat occurs. We wipe them out, though Urrik is bitten and contracts Filth Fever.
There is nothing in this alcove; it’s clear that we chased them into a dead end as they retreated from us. There are some stairs upward, but the upward way is bricked over, and there is a buttress holding something up. It is unclear where that something would be in terms of the buildings we know about, though.
We continue our explorations around the old circular track (there are no more fresh tracks) and come to and take another passage that goes inward toward the circle’s center. There is another circle passage with shelves of ruined books and scrolls, and other stairway up that has been bricked over. Some of the remains of writings are not in as bad a shape as the first ones we found, but they would probably crumble at our touch. We cannot really recognize the writing but it is possible these are old Human text.
We continue going around the circle, past another inward passage, and another array of shelves. The arrangement seems nicely symmetric. It comes to a blank brick wall at a place where it makes sense that the circular passage should end.
Backtrack to an inward passage, and abotu 100 yards in slopes downward. It also seems to open out ahead of us, so we send our sneaky types forward. The room ahead is dark, and there are some large stone reliefs on the floor: sarcophagi? altars? The room is quite large, 100 yardes or more across, and the ceiling rises 30 to 40 feet up. There are no supporting pillars, but there are lots of sarcophagi. Our Wizard senses weak magic on the nearest sarcophagus. He cannot tell if it has always been that way, or whether it used to be stronger and has decayed down to cantrip level.
Blender looks to the center of the room and sees a ring of sarcophagi, with perhaps more in the center, number 50 or 60 in all. We sneak around the periphery of the room. There is art on the wall, mosaics with lots of little pieces, and very old, now faded to being nondescript. The patterns suggest human forms, humans in building scenes?
As we creep along, we see the sarcophagi are not identical: though they are all the same size, there are differences in trim. The are all made of the same stone, and we do not see joints at the bottom: it appears they have been carved out of the native stone.
At the next cardinal point (there are inward passages into the room at NSEW, we believe) we find the expected inward radial passage. Kos the Rogue creeps inward, and the second ring has 8 sarcophagi, and on the end of those there are statues, which look sort of like Chinese tomb dog figures on the ground looking outward from each end of the row. In the center there is a pair of larger, side-by-side sarcophagi, on a raised dais. They look wider though the same length, and may be more ornate, with perhaps inlay set in them.
The Wizard moves forward to investigate, and the sarcophagus lids start moving, leaving us with a cliffhanger to end the session.