The party emerged from the well just before dusk, loaded down with all the tools of their nefarious trade. Heavy snow was falling and the streets of the Slums were largely empty. They crept to the edge of the square around Kuto’s Well, then İstediğimi summoned a dust devil to blow the snow back over their tracks, obscuring signs of their having exited the well. With that done, they hurried towards the walls of New Phlan.
They reached Ivanovich Poppof’s house to find a half-dozen orcs standing about it, shivering in the snow, and talking rather loudly, presumably complaining about guard duty, but none of the party spoke ‘orc’ so it was hard to be sure.
Yury cast a sound bubble over the group and the silently slipped around to the rear of the house. Or rather, that was their plan, but one of the orcs looked in their direction just in time to see Grinkle and Tamn bringing up the rear and raised the alarm, which the party failed to hear due to their protective bubble of silence. Moments later six orcs were charging at their backs.
Grinkle did not fare well in the initial orc onslaught, taking a spiked club to the side, then getting hamstrung by an orc with a long, curved sword. Sending him sprawling to the ground, his screams of pain muffled by Yury’s magic. Tamn took a grazing hit from a spear, but managed to deflect the remaining attacks directed at him.
Yury reacted first, spinning and unleashing a mass of thick, sticky webbing from his hands. One orc managed to leap forward, away from the spell, managing a half-hearted swing at Tamn as he did so, the rest were trapped in the webbing. Zander stepped up and downed the free orc with two swift blows of his flail.
Grinkle scrambed backwards from the webs and said a prayer to repair his injured leg and staunch the bleeding. Tamn suggested that Yury “encourage them to be quiet” and began lighting a torch. Yury threw another sound bubble over the web-entrapped orcs and Tamn tossed in the torch, burning them alive…quietly. Grinkle laid a cloud of gloom over the area to keep the flames from being seen by observers outside of the alleyway.
Once the webs and the orcs had burned away, Isti and Tamn put on their climbing harnesses and scrambled up onto the snow-covered roof. They tied a rope around the northern-most chimney, then threw the end down. Tamn climbed down first, followed by Isti, coming out into the house’s kitchen. Tamn unlocked the deadbolt and removed the bar from the back door, as Isti examined the cabinets and drawers stuffed with dried foods, plates, bowls, and eating utensils. A trap door, presumably leading into a basement or cellar, was in the south-east corner, and a wooden door led south into the rest of the house.
As the others came in, there was some discussion as to whether they should get a wagon or wheelbarrow to haul all the food and furniture back to their hideout. Tabling the conversation, Yury suggested that they check the cellar first, then work their way upstairs. Everyone agreed and Zander cast a find traps spell and led the way.
The trap door opened to a set of rickety wooden steps, leading down into a plain, dark cellar. Five figures, crouched near a door on the far side of the cellar, immediately began barking as Zander started down into the hole, the sound oddly muffled by Yury’s spell. “I hate dogs,” Zander grumbled. The chorus from his infravision-equipped friends was unanimous, “Those are not dogs,” though as they lunged at Zander it was clear that the cold, skeletal creatures had been dogs at some point in the past.
Tamn reacted first, jumping down the stairs and clipping one of the skeletal hounds with his iron-studded club. The dog recovered quickly and clamped its jaws onto Tamn’s arm. Isti dropped down beside Tamn and knocked the undead canine away with the flat of her sword.
Two more of the hounds lunged at Isti, but she managed to dodge aside. Grinkle, still at the top of the stairs, castigated the undead hounds, raining down a string of blistering invective about how they were “vile, unclean, putrescent,” and the like. The skeletal hounds were literally blown away by the harshness of Grinkle’s words, hurling them back against the far wall where they shattered.
The cellar had nothing of interest other than the door, which Yury quickly unlocked. Beyond the door was a passage into the old sewers and catacombs that ran under most of the old city. Isti pointed out that the sewers were all connected one way or another, so there was sure to be a way to get from here to their hideout. They all agreed that they should finish casing the house and taking anything that could be carried, but that maybe they could use this passage to secretly return and transport furniture and other harder to stash items back to the well.
They made their way back up into the kitchen and through the south door into what was clearly the living room of the house. Two large, stuffed chairs stood in front of the second fireplace. Next to them was a small bookcase packed with leather-bound volumes. A well-built, mahogany table surrounded by six hardwood chairs stood next to the far wall, near the stairs going up. On a small table by the front door was a 12-inch tall gold statuette of an illithid.
The party immediately began discussing how they would get the table, chairs, and bookshelf back to their lair, when something small darted out from under one of the table and slashed at Grinkle, tearing into his leg with tiny, razor-sharp talons. A hairsbreadth later, three more came bursting from cover, one from each of the stuffed chairs and another from the bookshelf.
“Fucking undead cats now?!” said someone, as the things hissed and tore into the party. Zander took a minor scratch. Isti cut one in half laterally with her sword. Yury telekinetically hurled the one on Grinkle against the ceiling, shattering it. Then Zander swept away the last two with his flail.
“Of course the only joker willing to build a nice house out here in the slums would have to be a necromancer!” groaned Tamn.
They grabbed and bagged the gold statue and headed up the stairs with Tamn in the lead, into a small, unfurnished hall. Six humanoid skeletons waited, one on either side of the two windows, and another in front of each of the two doors leading off the hall. There was an audible, collective sigh as the party prepared to confront them.
One of the skeletons lunged at Tamn, but he met it with a club to the midsection, toppling it over the railing of the stairs to clatter on the floor below, then rolled towards the far door to clear the landing. Yury came up behind Tamn, deftly dodging the claws of the next two skeletons and then cast a spell to blur his form, making him even harder to hit. Grinkle was a step behind, beating back the nearest skeleton with a sword to the head, with Zander right beside him crushing another skeleton with his flail. The skeletons closed on them, one getting its bony claws into Zander. Then, Isti dispelled the magic animating the remaining four.
Expecting more skeletons, the party crowded around the next door, weapons at the ready, as Zander, still magically scanning for traps, nudged it open. Within was a small bed with fine linens beside a fireplace in the opposite wall, with a plain wooden desk and chair closer to the door. They cautiously stepped inside, looking under the bed, desk, and in the fireplace, then relaxed when they found no undead guardians. On the desk was a candlestick, several letters written in a language none of them understood, a half dozen quill pens, two large bottles of ink, and several blank sheets of parchment.
Isti claimed dibs on the bed if they could get it out of the place, but they otherwise passed over the room and headed for the next. As they stepped back into the hall, Grinkle pointed out a trap door in the ceiling, presumably leading to the attic, which they agreed to check after the next room.
They were equally cautious opening the next door, which led into a room smelling of sulfur, rotting meat, and other unidentifiable stenches. A large table covered with glassware and other alchemical paraphernalia dominated the center of the room. A bookshelf leaned against the far wall, near the one round, unshuttered window that Tamn and Isti had noticed the night before, and a plush, high-backed chair stood next to the fireplace. In the corner opposite the chair was a small podium, completely covered by a book at least three feet wide.
Isti scanned the room with detect magic. When both Isti and Zander gave the all clear that there were neither mundane nor magical traps, other than the ones they both detected on the large book, Tamn pushed the door the rest of the way open and Yury led the way inside. As soon as Yury cleared the door, a creature looking very much like an oversized, skeletal bat leaped on his back.
The bat thing clawed and bit at Yury, tearing into his flesh. Then the large-armed tiefling went rigid, his muscles seizing and freezing him in place. Tamn stepped up and swatted the thing with his club, knocking it off of his paralyzed friend, and Isti hacked at it with her sword.
The bonebat hurled itself at Isti, biting her and stinging with its tail, digging a great, bleeding gash in her stomach, and paralyzing her as well. Grinkle dealt the thing a glancing blow with his sword, then Zander sent it flying halfway across the room with his flail.
The bat, apparently more intelligent than the other skeletons, picked itself off the ground and flew up and out of the nearby chimney. Zander wanted to give pursuit, but only Tamn would fit up the chimney, and he was on his knees trying to revive Isti.
Zander and Grinkle used their magic to patch up the worst of Isti and Yury’s injuries. Five minutes later the two of them started moving again.
Once everyone was mobile, they gathered up the laboratory gear, figuring it was probably the easiest thing to fence of anything they had found in the house so far, packing it as carefully as they could in the sacks they’d brought. These they left on the landing, and then climbed up into the attic.
The attic was a single, large room, with a low, sloped ceiling, and completely empty, save for one small, colorful wooden box, nailed shut and tucked into a corner. A faint scratching sound could be heard coming from within the box. They approached cautiously, scanning for magic, traps, and curses, before Tamn laid to with his crowbar and pried the thing open.
Within they found a cheerfully painted wooden puppet, a marionette, which immediately sat up and gestured to its mouth, which had apparently been glued shut. Zander took one look at the thing, groaned, and destroyed it with a warp wood spell.
They worked their way back through the house, using detect metals and minerals and treasure scent spells to look for any more loose valuables. They found nothing else, so they grabbed the bags of alchemical equipment, gathered up the books, and made ready to leave. Before stepping out, Isti went back down to the cellar, cut off a lock of her hair, and hid it in a corner with the intent of a spell to track the path through the sewers from their lair later.
After everyone else slipped out the back door. Tamn bolted and barred the door again, then climbed up and out the chimney to join them. There was no sign of the bonebat outside. Grinkle cast a mass pass without trace over the party and they made their way back to their hideout through the snow, unmolested.