Episode 23 : The Great Staircase
 

The spell casters murmured amongst themselves and said that they would be about to cast fly and invisibility on the entire party. With an unseen rope stretched between everyone, we could slip, single file, through the air and float down the Great Staircase undetected, that at least was the plan. We hopped onto the trollbarge and, using unseen, made it too invisible before we headed downstream. Axel Rohansson cast silence ahead of our passage so that the female trolls cooking supper did not hear our approach. We managed to pole around the corner in the river and headed down the fork with the bridge across it. The troll on the top of the bridge presented the horrible sight of a troll diligently engaged in picking his nose. We floated off of the trollbarge and left it to go over the waterfall a little way ahead. We floated past the guard and into the mosaic chamber.

The mosaic chamber had three trolls guarding the Great Staircase, two guarding another entrance off, a Wartroll on the near wall and a second Wartroll walking across the room. Carefully floating along the party headed up and over the three trolls guarding the stairway entrance. First to float over was Grimwold Mindbreaker as a Wartroll, he passed with ease as did the rest of the party over the heads of the three trolls. That is all except the halfling. The halfling was right at the back of the group and had been given Grimwold Mindbreaker's real body to look after, with instructions along the lines of, "Blue Bigfoot look after my real body. Remember if anything happens to it, I'm going to be really pissed and I'm also in a Wartroll body!", the point was taken.

The halfling floated over a troll guard. Grimwold Mindbreaker bodies robe caught the tip of the troll's polearm. The polearm slowly was pulled behind the troll and down the Great Staircase. The troll looking up muttered something and snapped the polearm straight to where it should be. Our rope snapped taunt. The halfling tied desperately to unhook Grimwold Mindbreaker's body and finally succeeded, he raised the body to the ceiling and floated up as far as he could go then started descending down the Great Staircase. Grimwold Mindbreaker turned and started back as did Axel Rohansson, the rest continued down. The troll with the polearm that got snagged swung wildly into the air and nicked the halfling who suddenly appeared at the top of the Great Staircase, bleeding slightly from the nick.

Grimwold Mindbreaker had Axel Rohansson call out in trollish, "Ha, ha, you got good eyesight, this just test, see how good you guard.". A Wartroll's head appears over the three troll guards, he looks at the Wartroll down the Great Staircase, then at the halfling floating above, and he said, "Sound the ...", just as Grimwold Mindbreaker cast subjugation on him. One of the smaller trolls looked at the Wartroll behind him, "Sound the, err?", "Nothing.", "Err, sound the alarms?". "No, you do what I tell you to do!", he picks up the trolls polearm and snaps it across his leg. "I'm sure I saw a flying halfling.". "Shut up, stand to attention.", the three trolls snapped to attention. "Me and this Wartroll will investigate, any questions?", he gives an evil stare at the three trolls, "No, good, we descend.", and the Wartroll walks past the three troll guards.

Grimwold Mindbreaker proceeded down the Great Staircase, his mind in one Wartroll and walking next to him his subjugated Wartroll. This Wartroll had two troll swords across his back instead of the single two troll handed sword of Grimwold Mindbreaker's other Wartroll. The only other difference was that this Wartroll had epilates on his shoulders, signifying something but we did not know yet what. After a few minutes Grimwold Mindbreaker and companion came to where the party had gathered about 120' down. The Great Staircase was 40' wide, 15' high and descended at 45, each step was 2' long and fell 1' (half the halfling's height). Every 40 yards there would be a landing about 8' long, on the landing at the sides were artworks carved into the stone. The carvings were beyond the skill of trolls and they depicted demons and horrors.

The halfling looking back just before the third landing saw a fourth troll appear at the entrance to the stairway before it was cut off from view by the ceiling. We stopped to organize ourselves. Axel Rohansson cast mind's lore upon our new Wartroll and read the Wartrolls mind. He found out that the Great Staircase would descend for 5 miles, before it intersected with the Great Underground Highway, and continued further down. The Wartroll had never descended beyond the Great Underground Highway but he knew that at the bottom was a Gate to Hell, and also a Man House. A Man House so far below ground is extremely unusual but it also indicated that for the Wartroll to know what one was he had to have been on the surface before.

Serra Ibin Raaviat started questioning with truth the Wartroll via Domund Garsson and Axel Rohansson, our troll linguists. "What things protect the Great Staircase?", "There are many traps, both big and small. There are the wandering troll patrols. There are the big tall smelly ones and sometimes the big beast!". While she was casting spells Serra Ibin Raaviat threw in a detect evil and saw that Fentor Pearlson glowed more than our spellcasters. Serra Ibin Raaviat continued her questioning "Describe the traps.". "Step on floor, spikes from side. Must use key to disarm.". "Where is the key?". "Downstairs with troll war party.". "Great.". "Describe the big smelly ones?", her spell did not work this time and the troll pointed at the halfling and chuckled. She tried again, "Look like him.", pointing at Ham Stollsson, "But 15' tall.". Harry Mata spoke up, "No fuck!", "Yep, no fuck!". To the halfling's ears came a roar from downstairs, echoing to where they stood, he could imagine what made the sound, and all he could think was, "We are all going to die.".

We moved on. The Great Staircase was lit every three landings, about 120', so we would descend through areas of poor light to areas of no light. The new Wartroll proceeded our advance by about 40' On the fourth landing from the entrance of the Great Staircase, the Wartroll stepped onto the landing and went flying into the air. The Wartroll was driven into the ceiling by a line of metal spikes that shot from the floor, one spike snapping off inside the Wartroll. The Wartroll lay there unconscious in a pool of blood. The spikes started to descend and withdrew into the floor. We looked about us and could see that the art work depicted troll faces, in one of the faces on either side of the Great Staircase were depressions in the mouths. Similarly down the Great Staircase there were two similar keyholes. About each keyhole there was a ring of dart holes, just waiting for an unlucky victim. One keyhole on either side was a trap, the other held the lock. Fentor Pearlson tried the lock but could not make it turn.

They turned to the Wartroll that had, after about 5 minutes, fully healed up and was on his feet. Grimwold Mindbreaker said, "How do we disarm it.", "Go rot in hell.". Harry Mata said, "It will be the spikes for you again.", "I'll do you.", replied the Wartroll and turning to Grimwold Mindbreaker, "But especially you!". Vernon Zarck said, "There might be a spot you can walk across without setting off the trap.", he proceeded to prod the left hand side wall area with the Serpent Staff of Mahaaran. Nothing happened. "This looks like it.", we sent the Wartroll across, he did not set off the trap so we quickly followed.

On we went. We had reordered the marching order so now the Wartroll was followed close behind by the halfling and Domund Garsson the Warning Ranger, both had the best perceptions in our group. Just after the thirteenth landing, the stonework of the next nine steps had a slightly different texture. The halfling called on the Wartroll to stop. Just three steps further on lay another trap, which would have collapsed under us sending us plummeting to our deaths far below. This time the carving with the correct keyhole was on the righthand side of the Great Staircase.

Blue Bigfoot did some calculations, "Lets see 13 landings at 50' per landing is 650' or 210 yards for 2 major traps. Now 1 mile is 1760 yards, so that makes 5 miles deep equal to 8800 yards, so on average there will be about 44 major traps, that means there are 42 to go. I don't want to be here!".

Grimwold Mindbreaker said to Serra Ibin Raaviat, "How much will it cost us to cast fly all the way down?". After a few pieces of quick mental arithmetic Serra Ibin Raaviat came back, "We could fly all the way down and have 4 power points left for the battle at the crossing with the Great Underground Highway.". "Right, that settles it, we fly down and stop and rest about 2 miles from the Great Underground Highway.". Grimwold Mindbreaker started casting fly spells on everybody. We flew over this trap and raced down the Great Staircase.

 

 
(c) 1997 One Night in Middleburg Rolemaster Campaign Journal by Ross Stopford  
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