A stiff spring breeze at their backs, the adventurers walked down the high road to the lonely old house on the cliffs to the east of Saltmarsh. Stopping for a short break, they heard a strange sound coming from a tree growing precariously close to the jutting edge of the clifftop path, with nothing but air and sea beyond.
Moving closer to investigate, they were met by a most unusual and blatantly hostile creature! Almost goat-like in its countenance, but with long dangling white hair and a skeletal face with puss-filled features; grey limbs braced between the trunk of the tree and one of the long, stretching branches; a wicked barbed tail dripping with green liquid; eyes glowing with yellow light; and every movement oozing malevolent intent.
It sprang down from the tree and struck the good dwarf, Carolus! Drawing their weapons in the next instant, the companions trained bows upon the creature and let fly a barrage of arrows and bolts, while the aasimar cleric, Carcharias, moved forward to gain a better position with which to aid Carolus.
The creature quickly found itself outmatched by the party and attempted to escape to the cliffs below; but before it could jump over the edge, it was slain. Its body dissolved into a heap of saggy flesh and flies before turning into ashen dust and being blown out to sea. Our adventures investigated the area, with the dwarf climbing down the cliff to find a small cave; a few trinkets and a hefty pouch of coin was found therein.
Finishing their rest and healing the dwarven monk, the party gathered itself once more and set out to complete their mission.
It did not take long for them to find the old house, nay, the haunted house on the cliffs. A low wooden picket fence surrounded the house, with a garden path leading down to the main road. The cool winds of an approaching storm rustled the few overgrown plants along the path and within the garden itself.
The adventurers approached the gate cautiously, attempting to look for hidden dangers. Seeing none, they felt emboldened enough to investigate the stone well near the house, but instead disturbed the nesting place of four hungry, giant weasels! Slaying the abnormally large critters, they decided to be more cautious and scouted along the edges of the house; peaking into windows as they moved along.
Through these windows they saw room after room filled with detritus, old and mostly broken furniture, and even some kind of library with books scattered on the floor in one corner of the room.
Meeting at the front door, they made their way into the stuffy entrance hall; dust choking them as they knelt down to inspect the floor. There they observed two sets of tracks: one leading to a short, dark passage to the north and the other to a similarly dark passage heading west. In both passages they could barely discern more doorways beckoning to them. To their right, a rickety staircase climbed up to the balcony of the second floor, dim light from a hole in the roof causing the dust to glow golden in the late afternoon.
Quietly, patiently, they crept forward, following the northbound tracks. They made their way to what had seemed to be a kitchen upon casual inspection through the window. Opening the door, their suspicions were confirmed, as they were greeted by an old dusty stove, a stone wash basin, and another set of stairs leading to the floor above.
Moving deeper into the room, our heroes inadvertently disturbed another nest of vermin when they came too close to the stone basin. Feet skittering quickly, four gigantic centipedes emerged from the drain and attacked the invaders! Arms flailing, weapons crashing into walls and floor, at last a few well-placed blows downed the creatures; leaving the party winded and Carcharias injured.
Taking a peak through the only other door in the room, Beiro found a moldy scullery beyond; a large copper cask, split and empty standing below the window. To his right, another set of stairs descended into what was presumably a cellar. After a brief, rather hushed discussion, the party made its way down the stairs into the cellar. Half way down, a strange voice called out all around them, warning them to leave, or else…
Ghosts? Could it be? Beiro was immediately taken with the idea and boldly charged down the stairs to find the “ghosties”. What the group found instead was a cellar in ruins; broken shelves and bottles strewn across the floor, a few old barrels rotting in a corner. But the most startling item in the cellar was that of a corpse, badly rotted but still wearing armour and clutching a sword and shield in its hands.
Ignoring this lost soul for the most part, the party investigated the room more thoroughly; they were certain that something was not quite right here. On a the southern wall of the cellar was an odd looking fireplace; a strange piece of architecture, no doubt. Siren eventually found a hidden lever, and after she triggered it and caused a panel to rotate open, our adventurers were well and truly surprised by the crossbow bolts that flew at them from a well lit room beyond!
A battle ensued with both sides seeking tactical advantage from pieces of furniture, walls and the doorway into the room itself. Some time later, the group watched as the last assailant escaped through yet another secret door, but it closed before they could follow and they did not see how it was activated either.
Keeping careful watch over the area where their attacker had disappeared, some of the party members explored the adjoining rooms. One had seen recent use, but the other was far more ominous. Furniture wedged in front of it door, boards nailed across it to seal it, and a note crudely written on some parchment warning of danger beyond.
In the other room they found comfortable living quarters; notes and books on a shelf and desk, and a warm-looking bed with a trunk at its foot. Nosing through everything, they found an old hooded lantern, and hidden in one of the books a scrap of paper with some sort of code written upon it.
In the meanwhile, other members of the group started to remove the furniture out of the way of the “dangerous” doorway and pried the planks loose. Opening the door they saw a bare, stone room shrouded in darkness. As they set foot inside to investigate more closely, glowing blue lights flared into existence from several spots around the room, an unnatural clattering sound filling the air.
Skeletal warriors in flimsy armour and baring ancient, rusted weapons lurched forward to attack. While the group was distracted by this new menace, a section of the stone wall behind the skeletons opened, revealing another room and a robed figure with the same blue glow in its eyes and a fiery blue beard of eldritch energy!
This new horror let fly glass vials filled with poisonous and acidic liquids, sowing chaos in the heroes ranks. But a few lucky shots from the tabaxi and tiefling quickly leveled the playing field, the group destroying the last of these vile creatures in short order.
Inside the hidden chamber, they found what appeared to be a study or laboratory of a long dead alchemist; golden baubles and rotten books littering the solitary desk. They also found a few intact pieces of an alchemical set of tools; vials, flasks pipettes and more. Zherxes found the alchemist’s formula book or journal, but it was too difficult to discern anything useful in its pages.
Deciding that they had tarried long enough, they searched for some manner of switch once more, eventually finding it by chance or the pity of the gods themselves. Stepping through the now open door, they found a dark, rough stone passage before them, the floor sloping slightly downwards and the air smelling strongly of the sea.
Making their way down a divergent passage to the south, Beiro and Carolus felt something drop onto them from above; strange jelly-like things that made them feel most unwell. Carolus used his newly acquired short swords to scrape the substance off, ruining the blades in the process. They continued down and then eastward, finding what appeared to be crates and supplies as well as more armed men!
Dispatching them quickly, our adventurers eventually came across a torch-lit corridor to the north that took them straight into the waiting arrows and blades of more of these criminals; including their leader, a man that they had come to know as Sanbalet from his journal found in the room above. A mage of some small power, Sanbalet brought fire and destruction forth from his fingertips while his brutish hobgoblin bodyguards set arrow and sword against the party.
Finally the ring of metal-on-metal and the harsh syllables of magical incantations fell silent, and the party, bleeding, tired but ultimately victorious, took note of their surrounding. In this cavernous area, the found many bolts of fine cloth and barrels of fine liquor, they also found items they believed were delivered to these smugglers by the bandits the group had dispatched in the woods north-east of Saltmarsh.
A short passage to the south brought them to a sea cave and a small boat tied to a makeshift pier. More goods lay here and there, but no more enemies were to be found. Taking a moment to rest, the adventurers deliberated their next move…