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Many Alternate Doors, No Exits in Sight (MADNES) 17: The Lighthouse Keeper

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Image: last scene of the Mystery Machine dash cam . . .
Yeah that doesn't look haunted at all . . .

Who doesn't like a refreshing swim? Well, yes okay, people afraid of water don't. But most people do. That cool feeling of sliding into the water. The buoyancy. The jellyfish attacks . . .

Okay, so the Cupcakes weren't really worrying about what lived in the water when they made a beeline from the library to the underwater passage they'd found days before. I suppose its possible that they'd gotten into the exploring spirit. More likely they just wanted to try out the spiffy new scroll of water breathing Maiphere had finally finished. But, most likely they were thinking that this underwater passage just might be a way out of this twisted place.

Like escaping the frying pan into the fire . . .

The first part of the swim was no big deal, just a passage that seemed to go on for ever. And they only had the effects of their never drown spell; no big deal right? They did find a crystalized corpse, presumably the last of the foursome including one charred paladin. They continued on.

At the half hour point they decided to send Nebula (who had a swim speed of 40 as opposed to the rest of the group's ten at best) ahead to see if the hallway would end before the spell ended. They turned back.

Shortly thereafter the hallway lead to a hole in a massive underwater wall. Nebula swam out and up. The wall ended about a hundred feet before reaching the surface of the water. She then judged the distance, swam back to the rest of the group, and had them alter course. (They'd only made it a couple hundred feet back by that point anyways)

The group breached the surface in the middle of a fog filled night. A chilly fog filled night. While Nebula spoke warmly of how it reminded her of home, the rest of the group chittered their way to shore. They spotted a functioning lighthouse and immediately headed for it. As if the cautionary tale told in one out of every three Scooby Doo shows wasn't enough to warn them away.

They found the lighthouse open and entered. That was when they became aware of the fact that, open or not, this place already had a resident. No matter how hard they tried, they could not close the door. It moved a couple inches, then stopped as if there was something in the way.

Loki immediately jumped to the conclusion that a ghost was keeping the door from closing. He addressed this possible phantasm, apologizing for arriving here without RSVPing, and asked permission to be allowed to stay the night. (And rolled quite well on the accompanying diplomacy check, I might add.)

At that the door closed of its own accord, and a blue flame leapt into existence in the fireplace. The group quickly spread out to explore their new digs. The bottom floor was little more than a common area and a kitchen with a stone staircase winding around the perimeter of the room to the next floor.

The next room held little in it. Including only half a stairway. The upper half. Which was all the excuse Thor needed to suggest throwing the Gnome yet again.

Said Gnome demurred strongly. Thor insisted, pointing out that he'd given Loki a ring of feather fall (which the Gnome had accepted dubiously at the time) just in case it came to this. Loki again refused; he wasn't at all too comfortable with Thor's track record. Not to mention that it was humiliating. And on top of that was the fact that Thor had proven he could throw any member of the group that far. Yet he still wanted to throw the Gnome.

Thor pointed out that he'd have to rage to throw the others, and truth be told he was feeling a little lazy. For some odd reason Loki was not convinced by these points. The stalemate continued until it was suggested that, if Loki wasn't going to perform the task he'd received the ring for then he could give it back. Loki finally agreed, holding still, arms crossed, as Thor wrapped his rope around his waist. Thor then grabbed and threw him.

Right into the edge where the stairs started up again. Loki impacted, and floated slowly to the ground whilst the others burst into laughter. Including the ghost, who also slammed the table in to indicate his joviality. Loki then walked back, shanked Thor in the stomach (which ought to have made any other attempts even less likely to succeed) and waited for the second attempt. The ghost laughed harder.

As Thor got over the prick (What; he didn't stick the blade all the way in) Loki also concocted a bit of vengeance. He was well into the plan when Thor successfully tossed him to the top of the broken staircase. Loki worked his way up finding the keeper's bedroom.

With nothing of interest there, he moved to the third floor, finding a storage area with only a few crates scattered about. The perfect thing for his plan.

The staircase winding the interior perimeter of the lighthouse ended on the fourth floor, but there was another winding staircase wrapped around a pillar in the center of the room. Up that led to the business end of the building, one lighthouse light. He confirmed that there was no actual burning fuel, yet the light remained bright.

Then he headed back down to the others. At the fourth floor he stopped to tie the rope to the inner staircase. Then he created the illusion of several beds spread amongst the floor. Once he made it back to the others he reported his findings, including the beds.

Which was a bit of a problem as far as his revenge went. For some reason, the fact that he'd gone out of the way to point out the beds, or perhaps the eager way he'd done it, struck the others as off. Worse, his bluff check was terrible. They weren't positive about the beds, but they knew something was off.

At that point the chair the ghost was leaned back in leaned forward, followed by the sounds of heavy footsteps heading up the stairs. Including the broken stairs. The group followed the sound up to find there invisible host sleeping in the one real bed.

Meanwhile, while this was all going on, the fog had gotten thicker and thicker. When Nebula looked out at it she swore she could seen faces in the mist. She then said 'go away!' accompanying the command with shooing gestures. An invisible finger wrote the word 'no' in the dew on window. Of course, from her perspective, it was backwards.

Loki came down the stairs, saw the word 'on' in the window, and wrote 'off' just below it. When nothing happened he shrugged and continued on his way back to the kitchen.

The rest of the night was uneventful. Even the . . . diversion, Loki had planned fell through as Thor first checked a bed before jumping face first into it.

The next morning the group awakened, went through their preparations, and left. The door was again opened already, suggesting that the ghost had gone off for the day.

{Player's Note: And I'll be you were thinking the ghost would be malevolent. Pretty racist of you, really . . . }

The day was clear, revealing a town nearby. As they approached they discovered two things:

1) The town was named Ryleth, making it the third town of that name they'd encountered.

2) It was completely deserted.

They made their way to the center of town, to a familiar gem hovering over a fountain, just as in Ryleth The First. The only difference between them was that that one had glowed with an evil (in hindsight) purple light, and this one was dull. Loki climbed up the fountain, took the gem, and jammed it into his haversack where it would, hopefully, be no trouble to anyone.

Until he had reason to give someone trouble . . .

Loki then went in search of any building that might just have a high chance of loot. The rest of the group followed, mainly out of some surprising need to keep him out of trouble. The first building they came across that fit Loki's search parameters was the town hall. Figuring that most town halls looted . . . er, taxed their constituents, and that said . . . taxes, had to be kept somewhere, he entered.

They found no loot, but in the mayor's office they did find a journal detailing the events leading up to the end of the town, including the appearance of the gem, their cleric's belief that it was sent from their god, and their eventual acceptance of the new fountain jewel. Then the entries ended abruptly.

Down in the basement they found a room with a maze of mirrors in it. Loki bypassed this fun bit of nose banging by using prestidigitation to soil all of the mirrors.

{Player's Note: Alex's glare was palpable. That's two for me!}

At the center of the would be maze they found the skeleton they'd released from the cage that had held Maipherre's organs in one canopic jar. It immediately said they shouldn't be there, hit a combination of switches under the desk it was standing next to, and fell through a trap door that shut behind it.

While the others went to the trap door, Loki immediately went to the desk and began playing with the keys. After a few attempts the sound of a door opening came from the maze. They quickly tracked back through it to find that one of the dead ends was not so dead as they'd thought. A hidden door had opened, revealing a stone closet on the other side. (Note: foreshadowing)

Loki stepped in to investigate. Before he was done the wall closed again, with the back of the closet opening to reveal a mine path complete with mine cart rails. A lever on that side opened the wall back up, allowing him into the closet. Once that wall closed, the other wall opened again, like an airlock. But, as it turned out, this was designed to lock out something much more dangerous than air.

Loki quickly showed the group the appropriate key strokes and they all filed through the door one at a time. They followed the main track down past several other minor tunnels. They fully planned to explore those before returning, but figured the main shaft probably held the best chance at finding something useful.

That shaft ended at a hole near the top of a massive cavern, filled with topaz crystals of varying colors. A heavily built elevator was held adjacent to the hole by a rope and pully system leading back to a mounted wheel much like a ship's wheel. The wheel was currently locked in place by a piece of metal jammed between one of the spokes.

On impulse, Thor grabbed Loki and threw him over to the wheel. As the Gnome slow fell towards his target he turned to unleash a glare at his brother the likes of which only Frazzled DMs are capable of emitting.

Of course, once down, the flaw in Thor's plan became apparent; Loki was unable to move the wheel or even remove the lock. (He's not exactly strong.) In the end, Thor climbed down the rock face. Once down he pulled the lock out, allowing the wheel to spin freely. The elevator dropped with the acceleration of gravity, screaming Cupcakes and all.

Thor did his best to catch the handles on the wheel that were flying by, managing to slow the decent slightly before they hit the ground. Loki was already busy investigating the gems. Should they ever come across a merchant in this twisted place they would come in handy. And, if not, he could always upgrade his burial plot . . .

Once down the rest of the Cupcakes stumbled off of the elevator, glared at Thor, and spread out. Thor and Hazel began to explore to the other end of the cavern. Steve and Nebula admired the view. Loki stuffed his BOH to the brim.

Thor and Hazel didn't get that far before running into a massive strand of web. A thick strand of web. Hazel used her magic yoyo to illuminate the area directly beyond them, finding that this area of the cavern was covered in webbing. Fearing this place belonged to Shelob(s?) the two quickly sounded retreat.

They all climbed into the elevator, including one gem laden Gnome, and Thor began working the wheel to hoist them back up. Despite his earlier careless antics, they did leave a rope hanging for Thor to climb once he'd finished his chores. They were halfway up it when the first Driders appeared in the distance, which really isn't any better than a Shelob, really.

Those with strength then pulled Thor up quickly while Loki cast a grease spell on the wheel and its surrounding area. There was a quick discussion of trying to tie the elevator to the hole, but it was quickly abandoned in favor of flight.

They made it to the door and filtered through it two at a time, with Thor and Hazel going last, just barely beating the pursuing Driders. As the door closed Thor reached out and yanked the lever out of its contraption. Moments later there was the sound of scratching as the Driders tried to claw there way through.

After ensuring that they weren't making any progress (based on the sounds) the Cupcakes went back to the table. This time Loki opened a closet on the other side of the room. But, despite the fact that this door was located opposite the one they'd just fled through, Loki and Nebula were the only ones brave enough to explore past the false walls. This particular airlock led back to the mines, on a path that led down to some tar pits. The side paths led to other main paths spaced 90 degrees around the room, including back to the Driders.

Upon realizing this, Loki and Nebula stealthed back to their ingress and egressed. This time Nebula took the lever with her.

Then it was back to the desk. This time, Loki was able to open the trap door. It led to a tunnel that emptied out onto the sandy beach of an underground lake. A beach with skeletal tracks heading directly into the water in a line with a small island in the center.

They swam to the island without incident, picking up the skeleton's tracks leading towards the direct center. As they approached that spot the sand turned to glass, as if having been subjected to a very hot explosion.

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