Around mid-morning the party arrived at the ruins of the Old Watchtower: a tower that sat along the remains of the Wall, looking out towards the Great Forest, and over a lake where the flooded ruins of some old settlement could just about be seen. The ruins looked empty, the field of grass and trees quiet. To the North and West the slopes of the hills began their climb to the distant mountains, where the sun was peeking above the peaks, casting its warm Spring rays down upon the ruins.
They cautiously approached, venturing inside to find the lower floor covered in rubble, old worn stairs leading to what remained of the upper floor: jutting ancient planks of timber, rotten, sagging, and the remains of the walls reaching a few feet high. Rat droppings littered the floor, some unexpectedly large. A pool of water covered part of the floor, and it seeped beneath a gap in the wall, exactly where the secret door was etched on the map they had found in the hidden room beneath the cellar of Ravenscar. Magnus examined it, looking for a way to open it, while Callum ventured upstairs. He took a tentative step on the floorboards, which groaned and sagged. He stepped out, and immediately fell through the rotten wood, crashing heavily into the rubble below, bruising his body and his pride.
Magnus pushed the top of the secret door, and it swung open revealing a short corridor that ended in stairs leading down into darkness. From below they could hear the faint squeaking of rats. The mage conjured a ball of light, brighter than their torches, and followed Alf and Old Man Willow as they took point; Callum, Horace, Jacob and Ratkin brought up the rear, bows ready.
Down the steps they went, into a cellar, where a door lead elsewhere, and a hole in the wall lead to narrow tunnels. Two giant rats were surprised by the sudden arrival of armed men with bright light, and hissed, leaping to attack the intruders: both were cut down swiftly, Alf skewering one on his spear, the other falling mid-leap as Magnus put an arrow into it. The rest of the party crowded into the cellar, and Jacob put his strength to the door, warped and rusted shut. He struck it once, twice, and then it smashed open, rotten timber flying inside: a split room, separated by bars, a cell with some weapon rack inside. The noise of the breakage echoed down the tunnels, and a chorus of loud, angry squeaking issued forth, almost immediately followed by the padding and skittering of paws as more giant rats appeared at the edge of the light.
The warriors moved into position to intercept the swam, archers at the back, the fir darrig keeping well out of the way. The rats scurried and leapt through the hole in the wall, four falling to their death as Horace, Magnus and Jacob shot three down and Willow stabbed another as it leapt to bite him. Another fell to Callum’s bow and arrow, another wounded by Jacob, and then finished off with a swipe from Alf.
Alf and Willow, with Horace and Jacob standing guard with their bows out, kept the tunnels under their watchful eyes, as Callum, Magnus and Ratkin investigated the other room: a keg of brandy, worn and rusty weapons on the rack, none of which radiated any magic to Magnu’s senses. At that point, with Magnus’ light in the other room, casting most of the cellar into darkness, Alf cried out that more rats were coming. They hurried out just in time to see another swarm coming down the tunnels: a flurry of arrows and a Burning Hands from Magnus and the surviving rats fled back down the tunnels; and as they did, the adventurers spied a large rat, obviously the leader, which disappeared into the dark.
The party followed, keen to put an end to the rats. They saw the larger rat climb up and through a smaller tunnel higher on the wall of the tunnel as it split into two directions. They jammed it with rocks and wood, setting fire to it. Then they moved along the tunnel, leaving guards at the other branches, poorly lit by the light as they followed the curve of the tunnels. They entered a larger cave, a nest, and the rats there, cornered and frightened, turned their fear into rage and once again swarmed to attack; not just from one direction, but suddenly from multiple tunnels!
Perhaps it was the fear driving them, or just luck, but the rats landed bite after bite on the party, clawing their arms and legs as they fought. Magnus got bit, Willow clawed. Callum shot a rat dead, Alf skewered another, but then, from the larger rat that appeared at the back of the tunnel where Willow and Jacob fought, a ball of fire flew through the air, smacking into Willow with a burst of fire: the older man collapsed, scorched and knocked out cold. Alf moved to block the rats, allowing Jacob to move in to try and drag Willow back. The rats savaged him, biting and clawing, wounding him badly, but not enough to fell him. Alf moved to help, but got caught in the blast of another ball of fire, and ducked out of sight, urging Jacob to do the same.
In the cave where the nest was, Magnus battered a rat to death with his staff, found himself surrounded and incinerated a bunch of rats with another Burning Hands spell, but exhausted his magic for the day. Horace moved in to help him. Callum, meanwhile, moved into a position to fire arrows at rats down the tunnels, but the narrow bends kept blocking his aim, and arrows shattered and skittered across the rock.
Alf and Jacob dragged Willow out of the tunnel, avoiding the rats. Callum called out to Magnus that they were retreating, but held his ground while Horace and the mage fought off the rats they were fighting. Alf and Jacob, quickly staunching the flow of blood from Willow’s wounds, continued to retreat, lighting a torch so that they could see where they were going. Ratkin called out to them, guiding them back to the cellar.
Back in the nest cave, Magnus spotted the larger rat appear behind their attackers, and gasped as a ball of fire flew from its paw, hitting Horace squarely in the chest, and sending the warrior sprawling. He did not rise. Magnus retaliated, shooting an arrow at the larger rat, which embedded itself deep into its flank. He ducked as it sent a ball of fire towards him, and he dodge a rat as it tried to bite him. Callum, still hesitating in following the others whilst Magnus fought, shot the rat dead, freeing Magnus to flee. Then they saw the larger rat envelop itself in a green glow, and its wound healed!
Deciding it was better to live to fight another day, they grabbed Horace’s body and started to drag it out: but then another ball of fire flew through the air, catching Magnus in the shoulder and knocking him to the ground, unconscious. Choosing his friend over their ally, Callum hefted Magnus over his shoulder and staggered away, back down the tunnel, into the cellar where the others were waiting.
They struggled upstairs, into the ruins, closing the secret door behind them, and collapsed, wounded and winded, and in much need of a rest.
End of Session
Losses: Horace, left behind to be eaten by rats.