The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh
In Saltmarsh the party booked rooms in The Merry Mermaid inn, just off the waterfront. After a day of restocking on supplies and exploring the fishing town, they met Bergan Lute, an ex-fisherman and member of the town council. They were introduced in the common room of the Mermaid, by the barman, ‘Old Nick’. He mentioned the old Mansion house on the Seaton Road. They soon found the locals willing to tell tales of the Haunted House that Theodore Dobbin had told them of.
Four miles east of Saltmarsh, just inland of the old coast road and looking out to sea, stands the Haunted House. Until twenty years ago it had been the residence of an aged alchemist/magician of sinister reputation, and even then had been shunned by reason of its owner’s mysterious occupations. Now, two decades after the sudden and unexplained disappearance of its occupant, the house has acquired an even greater air of evil and mystery with the passing years.
Dilapidated and now long-abandoned, the house presents an unwholesome appearance to the eye. Those hardy souls who have on infrequent occasion sought entry to it (for rumours of a secret hoard of alchemical gold have persisted since the old man’s disappearance) have all returned with naught save grim tales of decay presided over by monstrous perils. In more recent years there have been reports of fearsome hauntings – ghastly shrieks and eerie lights emanating from within the dismal place.
Now not even the bravest dare so much as to approach the house, leave alone enter it. Indeed, such is the reputation of the house that the fields around it, though prime agricultural land, remain untended and rank with weeds.
Fortified with a night’s sleep and a good breakfast, the adventurers made their way along the seafront and through Portleven on the outskirts of Saltmarsh, to the Seaton road. As promised, three miles along the road, they could see the silhouette of a large house ahead of them at the top of the ciffs overlooking Monmurg Bay.
The Haunted House
The Haunted House stood on the cliff top 70 feet above sea level and about 80 feet from the cliff edge. The 6’ high stone wall surrounding the garden had partially collapsed in a number of places. The main gate, of a heavy and ornate metal construction, stood open.
The garden was overgrown and showed no sign of any care for years.
As they explored the dilapidated old house, they found out just how dilapidated when Ravaaga fell through rotting floorboards of the landing above the entrance hall. A cure light wounds spell from Gervontis salved the pain as well as the embarrassment of a light-footed elven thief crashing through the floor. Upstairs they found clues that the house was not in fact abandoned. First, they found scuffs on the floor and scratches on the sill of a window overlooking the bay.. Next they found a prisoner, stripped, bound and gagged in one of what had been a bedroom.
They untied the grateful captive, who revealed himself to be Ned Shakeshaft, a thief from Seaton who entered the House under cover of darkness the previous night to find a place to sleep during his journey to Saltmarsh where, he had heard, there was possible work for adventurers. He entered through the back door and had only reached the kitchen when he was attacked from behind, overcome and knocked unconscious.
He said that he awoke some hours ago — bound, gagged and stripped of his possessions — in this room. He did not see his attackers nor, until the party came along, had he heard any sounds in the House. However, now he was released, he would like to join the party in their adventure.
Apart from some giant centipedes, spiders and some stirges (nasty blood-sucking cross between a humming bird and a vampire bat), it looked like the house was just another ramshackle old abandoned mansion. What was supposed to be their first great adventure would turn out to be a hit out with a few minor monsters and a few bits of left over valuables. It almost became deadly, when Theodore Dobbins discovered a knight in what turned out to be magical plate mail armour slumped in a wine cellar.
Only a swift intervention by the quick thinking Horgeness saved him, when he was attacked by hideous rot grubs. Horgeness placed her Ring of Fire Resistance on Theodore’s finger and burned the fouls flesh-eaters out, before they burrowed deep into the halfling. However, their luck changed when they found a secret door, under a mat in what was once a large living room.
Beneath what was once a fine circular carpet, Ravaaga found a trap door. As she peered down into the darkness beyond, a voice cried out “Welcome, fools — welcome to your deaths!” followed by a prolonged burst of insane and fiendish laughter. Immediately, there was a sudden muffled yelp and a thud. Everyone turned around to see ”/characters/theodore-dobbins" class=“wiki-content-link”>Theodore slump to the ground, and Ned rushing for the patio doors.
Gervontis rushed to Theodore’s side, while Damonel and Horgeness rushed for the door, in pursuit of the fleeing assassin. By the time they reached the door, Ned was unhitching the horses and leaping into the saddle. The ranger and the fighter quickly pulled out their bows, stringed in anticipation of action. As they arced arrow after arrow into the disappearing figure on horseback. Two arrows hit the assassin in the back, and one struck the horse, causing it to rear up in pain, throwing Ned to the floor. He was dead before Damonel and Horgeness reached him.
Back inside, it was too late for Theodore Dobbins. With no more healing spells, Gervontis Traal could do nothing for him. Tears of loss and anger clouded Ravaaga‘s eyes. She had never known her parents, and the few friends she had were those she grew up with in Finbur Softfoot’s rouges company in Gurden. Theodore was perhaps her closest friend, as they both were non-humans among humans, even if one was an elf and the other a halfling. With Finbur gone and now Thoedore, she felt the little past she had was slipping away.
After carefully placing Theodore in a corner, with his blanket for a shroud, the party gingerly made their way down the stairs, not into the darkness, but into light.
They entered a room which was so unlike anything else they had seen in the House that for a moment they paused, somewhat taken aback. The illumination there was good since several lighted torches are held in shoulder-high brackets around the walls. This was obviously a cellar, but equally obviously it was now used for an entirely different purpose; the first impression is that it is the living quarters for about ten people.
This impression was corroborated by the figure who turned to face them. He appeared to be standing facing the wall, before their appearance disturbed him. His eyes opened wide, when he saw Ravaaga at the foot of the stairs, followed by Horgeness. Unthinking and on edge, Ravaaga hurled her dagger, hitting the man squarely in the back. The shock caused him to drop the bottle of wine he carried, and he turned, snarling, and drew a cutlass. This was the wrong move as an arrow from Damonel swiftly followed Ravaaga’s dagger, felling him.
There were two doors at the far end of the room. The door to the left appeared normal but the one ahead of them had a strong wooden bar across it, carried in brackets on the frame and the door itself. On the door, the single word ‘DANGER’ in the common tongue had
been inscribed in large letters using chalk.
After a quick search of the room on the left – the luxurious quarters of someone clearly more important than those in the large room – they found potions and a spell book, but Gahana Trannyth could not read much of it. Ravaaga listened at the door, but heard nothing, so the team opened the door, weapons in hand, prepared for danger.
The room beyond was dark, and Ravaaga could see nothing with her elvish dark-vision. Damonel and Horgeness entered first, torches in hand, to be met by six skeletal figures coming to (un-)life and shuffling towards them with short swords and spears raised.
A battle ensured with the adventures prevailing, aided by Gervontis Traal appealing to his god, Heironeous, and turning back several of the undead warriors with his clerical powers.
Ravaaga found a secret door in the room, leading to a laboratory of a long dead alchemist beyond. On the bench running down the West wall were various jars of powders and liquids and several pieces of chemical apparatus, some stained in different colours as the liquids they contained dried up long ago.
There was a table against the south wall, forming an L-shape with the bench. In the chair before the table sits a human figure with its back to them, apparently studying a book – Ye Secret of Ye Philosopher’s Stone – which was open on the table. The figure wears a robe, embroidered with a variety of mystic symbols, and a pointed hat. On the table was a candlestick, a tiny stump of unlit candle remaining in it, and a variety of other items which, even in the dim light, shine with the warmth of pure gold. One of these objects was a human skull.
They found another secret door, where the the man they met earlier had clearly been trying to exit. Through this they found stairs defending down into a cave system. Here they found a human and two Gnolls in the midst of what looked like a smuggling operation. Bolts of cloth and wooden barrels lay stacked against the cavern wall.
The Gnolls ran into the attack, while the human – an Illusionist by the name of Sanbalet – cast a spell to summon up a wall of fog. He turned invisible while his servant Gnolls fought vainly against Damonel, Horgeness and Gervontis, and tried to make his escape from the cavern.
Ravaaga’s hearing was too good for him. Hearing a shuffling to her side, she spotted the illusionist’s footprints in the sand and went into the attack. As he tried to fend her off, Sanbalet lost his concentration and reappeared. From that moment he was doomed.
The commotion brought three other smugglers running, cutlasses in hand. However, while they saw a female elf and a human as easy prey, their did not count on five armed adventurers.
After discovering the smuggling ring, the adventures searched the rest of the house and the caverns, finding more cloth and barrels of brandy and a small boat. They decided to camp out in the house and await the next rendezvous with the rest of the smugglers.