Mages and Thieves 2

An 11 Hour Gaming Session Of AD&D

2nd Edition (Spikehelm Campaign World)

The Back Story: (aka the idea that became the setup for this game)
Continuing from the last episode of Mages and Thieves.
DM Notes:
It's always easier to go forward from a previous game. However, when your players are in many different games, I find it's good to recap the last game. The way that I do this is to ask each player "Where did we leave off last?"
This not only helps everyone to get back into the game, but also lets me know what they remembered, which is usually a good clue to what they liked from the last game. The better you understand your players and what they are into, the better your games will be.
I also created a better map of the room that they were in, replacing the scratch-up from the last session.
The Adventurers: (aka the Player Characters)
Name Class Level Gender Race Brief Description
Daniel Blackthorne Battle-Mage 4 Male Dracôrian (Human) N/A
Maldis Thief (Adventurer) 2 Male Southern Durnite (Human) N/A
Session Start: Saturday - 4:00 pm
Location: Southern Durnite
Game Date: The 4th day, in the month of Planting, in the year of the Gold Hunter, in the 6th Age, 941 years after the Great Crossing.
Moon Phase: Waning Gibbous
Daniel and Maldis searched the room and found a narrow corridor that went down the far wall, which extended the bunks from 4 to 10, which meant that this place was much larger than it appeared. All those tightly packed crates might have something that they could use, most useful of which would be their wooden bodies for burning. They were out of the wind and snow, but they were still in a large, ice cold, underground room.
They tried to pull apart the wall of crates, but with their limited resources they couldn't break them open. The bunks, tables and benches were also not burnable.  Maldis had been a blacksmith's apprentice and knew that burning finished wood could be poisonous.  Needing something to burn, Maldis squeezed down to the far end of the bunks and found a few smaller crates stored on last of the bunks, but they were too large and heavy to bring back to the main area. Unless they could break them, they would freeze. The two of them made a better search of the main room and found hidden in the thick dust under the first bunk, a long metal bar with a single chiselled end and a mallet. With these new tools they attacked the wall of crates to no avail, so Maldis had to squeeze back down the corridor and try them on the small crates. Daniel took that time to start clearing out the fireplace and the surrounding mat of dust.
Maldis managed to open the smallest one, finding it filled with a long length of chain and brought it out in two pieces. He needed Daniel to take out the second crate, but even he couldn't manage to open it.
Now that their options were limited to that single crate they sat back and thought about how and when to use it best to survive.
DM Notes:
This doesn't sound like a lot, but in fact we took over 4 hours to reach this point. The players actually spent a lot of this time trying to figure out the corridor, thinking that there was some kind of secret entrance. As this would be boring for anyone except for the players, I left it out.
So, at this point, after what I thought were many subtle hints, I took a step back and asked the players to look at the map and tell me what was different about where they were. They had overlooked one area in the room and I wanted them to notice it. It worked.
As they went to set a fire, Maldis took some of the wood punk that was left in the log store close to the fireplace.  That's when he noticed something. Taking a closer look he saw that there was a hidden release of some kind. It came as no surprise to them when part of the wall of crates shifted showing a hidden door.
What was a surprise was that the crates were a 3 foot thick wall that split the room. Within, they found another fireplace, a large canopy bed and 2 more long trestle tables with benches. On the far wall was an obvious façade of an archway. Laying facedown 5 feet from the arch was a desiccated humanoid body with arrows in its back and a spear that was pinning it to the ground, as if it had been killed while it came through the archway. In a corner between the body and the fireplace were 3 large chests.
Our 2 adventurers searched this area thoroughly, leaving the body for last. It was like the other side, thick with decades, if not centuries of dust. The bed was deteriorated beyond use; its bedding was as fragile as thin old lace. The three chests were locked. The body was covered in what looked like fine scale mail and they could see that the head had been badly burned.
They discussed what to do next and decided to investigate the chests. Maldis took the lead on this, first searching for any traps and then opening the first one. He opened it and found a sack within. When he took it out, a trapdoor in the lid popped open and a bunch out black bits flew from it and hit him in the chest. They were carapaces of scorpions, long since dead. He also found a false bottom, also filled with dead scorpions. The second chest was similar to the first. The third Maldis didn't want to attempt, as it had 6 locks, in an inverted pyramid shape, and all of them were trapped.
On to the body. As Maldis moved the body, the head broke off and rolled over to the bed, so he went after it. As he did, Daniel figured he'd pull off that armour and see if it was still good. It wasn't; the scales were in fact similar to a fish and flaked off as he pulled at it. When Maldis picked up the head, his fingers sank into it and cracked it open. He dropped it as the powered remains of its brains poured out and a slim metal circlet bounced once unto the floor before he grabbed it and without thinking put it on his head for safekeeping. Daniel noticed this but before he could say anything it sank into Maldis' head leaving a thin scar just under the hairline and shored hair falling to the floor. With a sworn oath, Daniel told him that "never put anything on until I've checked it!"
There was nothing that they could do short of cutting it out, and Daniel now knew that nowhere -- short of Myth Dracôre -- had the skill to do that without killing him.
DM Notes:
Once again this took almost 4 hours. It's surprising how much time it takes to get through things like this. However, it didn't feel like it as we are going through it.
I did stop a few times to ask if they still wanted to continue or if they needed "help" by moving the game along, but they were having a good time with the investigation of the place, so I let them find their own way. Which of course gets them more XP in the end!
Later, as Maldis was walking around, he noticed a shimmer out of the corner of his eye. It took him a moment, but it was coming from the archway. With a bit of trial and error, he was able to keep the shimmer in view as he approached the archway. When he got within 3 feet of it, the wall within the archway became transparent and he could see a scene that looked similar to the land above, but it was not snowing in the scene and he could clearly hear that the storm was still raging above them. There was also a nearby copse of trees in the scene that a small family of deer was entering. When he told Daniel about what he saw, Daniel could not see it. Thinking that it might just be a vision or something created by the circlet, he moved closer to see if it was real. As soon as his hand touched the wall it sunk in and an icy blast of arctic wind came into the room. Now Daniel could see and feel what he saw. He took his hand away and the wind stopped.
Neither wanted to go outside unprepared, and they didn't know if they could come back once they left. They gathered their things and went out.
As they looked at where they exited from, they found themselves looking back through an entirely different and smaller portal into their room. That portal was a doorway in another much bigger and newer ruin.
They went out planning to bring back some wood.  It took an effort to get to the trees, as there was snow from thigh to waist deep. It was even harder to drag the wood back uphill, and while they did that the sun dropped out of the sky.  After a bit of a scare and a few misses in finding the right gap in the ruins, Maldis was able to find that odd shimmer and get them back inside.
They rested for two days. During that time, Daniel tried a spell that he knew to attempt to open the third chest. It went badly; the chest was magically trapped and when his spell forced the chest open, a large fireball enveloped the hidden room. This was what he feared might happen so they were safely in the other room when it did go off. They also went out again to get more wood. They liked this little hideaway and hoped that they could find some way to use it, maybe even as a base of operations.
They had plenty of water -- snow was just outside -- but their food supplies were running dangerously low. In the end they left and headed North-West towards what they thought might be chimney smoke from a settlement. It took them almost 2 days to reach a small village, maybe 4 times the size of the previous hamlet.
It had a tall, wooden palisade and twin towers guarding the gates. As they drew closer they were challenged and required to prove that they had money to spend before the gates were opened. They also had to surrender their weapons, except for a single dagger each. They bought rooms and a bath at the inn and warmed themselves for the first time in 6 days. While in the commons room, they found out from the locals that the ruins they came from where said to be a place haunted by evil. 
Tomorrow they would buy supplies and decide what to do next.
-- To Be Continued --
Session End: Sunday - 3:00 am