Resting their envenomed wounds in the dwarven citadel-town of Zhedarak the heroes used some downtime to plan and plot further, while the duskblade furthered his studies into this ancient elven blade-art. After a few days rest, they hired out some dwarven steppe-guides, who returned them to the crumbling Moathouse, amidst a slate-grey, stormy sky.
They explored the upper level of the crumbling ruin, and between sheer braun and eldritch blasts, managed to force their way through most of the locked, closed or stuck doors. Discovering a strange cloak and an odd featureless pastel mask, they discovered little more than startled bats, scurrying rats, and a scant handful of dusty coins that others had presumably overlooked. They also discovered an small, heavy statuette of an earth elemental, except made of cold iron – the warlock recoiled from this odd discovery.
Convinced that the upper levels of the fallen manor held little else for them, they discovered a steep and ill-used stair, that descended into a yawning, black basement, and crept down the chill stairs, only to be ambushed by a pair of well-armed bugbear guards, each wearing a black cloak with the symbol of the elder eye upon it! However, the duskblade’s shocking blade and the psychic warrior’s keen edge proved a better strategy than ambush, and after a relatively short battle, the party had won.
They crept into a hidden, under-warren that appeared to be a ruined barracks, or a sprawling, abandoned cellar. Nearing some unused jail cells, a pungent odor of rot sapped a few of them of their fighting strength, as a horde of ravenous ghouls poured out of a nearby hall. The cleric was bitten and immediately paralysed, but the defensive spells remained potent; the gnome’s psychic visions warned him of this ahead of time, allowing him to release blasts of cryokinetic energy, shattering the ghouls, while his allies blasted and stabbed them to their best ability. Further searching only revealed a dust-laiden torture chamber, perhaps causing them to question claiming such a place for their own, once they had cleared it of its foul, unholy taint.
Venturing further, they noted that one of the refuse-laiden rooms had seen recent traffic – the gnome accordingly manifested a protective psychic shield, before the group entered the room. They found a many pillared room with a white blanket in the middle, holding several strange items of dark power, namely, some Incense of Dreaming,a bead of force, a Torch of Revealing and a strange scroll, coiled inside a black metal tube, later revealed to be a copy of the Fell Manuscript of the Black Cyst. While they were observing these items, two well-armed bugbear guards hid behind the nearest two pillars and leapt out to the attack – however, the gnome’s psychic visions sensed them and he directed a deafening blast of crackling electricity at one; his force-shield protecting him from the ensuring brunt of the bugbear’s weapon. The party readied themselves for the battle, when an unseen witch croaked fell words and caused a black rain to fall upon the party, harming and burning them.
They scattered and fought against the bugbear-guardians, as the cleric used his prayers to dispel the black rains. The witch relied on trickery, causing the duskblade to strike himself with his flaming blade, but with both bugbears soon dead, they pressed forward. She blanketed the room with a thick fog and escaped into an unseen corner, out of the vision of even the gnome’s psionic eyes. The duskblade hustled to her last location, but couldn’t see her, and used his cloak to become invisible. The warlock tossed a sunrod into the fog, but it remained thick. The gnome’s mind lashed out at the fog and dispelled it, but the witch was nowhere to be found. As they crossed the room, the cleric wandered too close to the fell items on the blanket and was shocked with a burst of negative energy – however, he was able to properly identify the foul artefacts.
Figuring that she had somehow escaped through the southern door, they healed themselves with spells and wands, and then crept to the door. However, upon opening it, several skeletons, encrusted with strange, brown dust stepped out – their massive lead, an ogre-sized skeleton fully knocking the psychic warrior back, as his cohorts spilled out. The very air around them sapped heat and vitality from the heroes as they fought, and the duskblade successfully realised that they were rife with brown mold that had grown (or was placed) within the carefully constructed bones. Worse still, each skeleton that was felled immediately shattered into a icy cloud of brown mold, easily turning a victory into a hasty defeat. Retreating backward the gnome and the warlock escaped to the far side of the room, pelting their skeletal foes with eldritch bolt and kinetic fire alike. The duskblade cast a scorching ray, which erred and struck his clerical ally, just as the giant skeleton collapsed into an explosion of icy dusts. Battered and defeated, the heroes healed up and counted their blessings. Their vitality was returned, and although the duskblade had fared well, psion was half-spent, and the cleric was all but empty of his spells. The warlock’s supernatural luck had run out, and he had exhausted his magical gauntlets, and his ability to powerfully flood his eldritch blasts was now beyond safe.
They regrouped in the main hall, by the stair, bandaged their wounds, and spent their spells and wands. Curious about exploring the rest of this strange, malevolent place.