Below the trapdoor in the floor of the banquet hall, a steep, narrow stairway descended 20 feet from the trapdoor to a dank passageway of gray-green brick. When a blast of fire scorched the first couple of characters going down the steps, the party realized that Vontarin had used an imp statue as a magic trap to guard the entrance to his secret sanctum. The PCs had missed finding the password upstairs, but a successful Arcana check allowed them to pass through the trap unharmed for five minutes.
At the bottom of the stairway, the party found the Cistern Room— a chamber with three large pits yawning in the floor. The pits were once cisterns used to store water collected from catchments in the manor’s roof. Fire destroyed those catchments as it ravaged the upper floors years ago, and the cisterns had run dry. Barrels, sacks, and crates of different sorts were heaped at the west end of the room, next to iron double doors.
The iron doors were unlocked and opened easily. Beyond the doors was a Misty Hallway that was formerly another one of Vontarin’s traps. The old enchantments had dissipated, but the hallway was still filled with a thick, purple mist hanging eerily in place. The mist was harmless, but it scared the group and it was several rounds before they all mustered up the courage to dash through it. Past the purple mist, large iron double doors led to the north and to the east. Judging by the brackets and rusted chains discarded in the corner, our heroes could tell that the set of doors to the north were chained up at some point. A broken bronze seal that secured the chain in place remained among the links. Glyphs and a stylized sun symbol adorned the seal. A successful Religion check allowed the party to realize that the seal— which looked aged but recently broken— was intended to avert evil. It was a prayer to Pelor.
The characters decided to open the set of doors to the north. The doors opened onto the Vontarin family crypt. Two impressive stone sarcophagi stood in the center of the room. Rows of old bronze plaques lined the walls, marking the locations of additional tombs. Along one side of the room were several bedrolls. Apparently, the tiefling bandits thought nothing of sleeping in a creepy old crypt and they had made the room into a barracks. Gathered in the crypt were 4 Fell Court ruffians, 1 Fell Court blackheart, and Harrumor the Fell Court hellmage. (For more information on the Fell Court, see pages 48-51 of Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale)
Once most of the PCs were engaged with the tieflings in the crypt, a reinforcing group of bandits threw open the large iron double doors to the east and attacked. Group 2 consisted of 4 ruffians and 1 blackheart. The tieflings in the reinforcing group had been waiting in the Menagerie. That cage-filled room was where Vontarin kept interesting creatures he intended to study.
After our heroes had dispatched the ruffians and blackhearts in the crypt and in the menagerie, they got down to the business of interrogating Harrumor, whom they had captured toward the end of the fight. The interrogation took place in Vontarin’s Workroom, which the tielfing hellmage had chosen as his own when the gang settled on the manor as their hideout. Bookshelves, worktables for alchemical instruments, and cupboards full of glassware still indicated that the room had once been the laboratory of a wizard. A good deal of the material was missing— the shelves were mostly empty and much of the glassware was broken. Complex arcane sigils inscribed on the walls had been deliberately damaged with a hammer and chisel at some point, leaving small piles of stone chips beneath each one. Judging by the dust on the shelves and glass, the place was cleaned out a long time ago.
Successfully interrogating the surly hellmage allowed the adventurers to find out that a wizard (presumably Nathaire/Vontarin) had entered the mansion earlier and forced his way toward the workroom. The tieflings tried to fight him, but he was too powerful. Harrumor said that the wizard acted as if he was possessed by some foul spirit. Before they fled from the basement, one of the tieflings managed to glimpse the wizard searching the laboratory. The wizard seemed furious that so much was missing. Harrumor told the PCs that the gang did not see the wizard leave the basement, but when dawn came, he was gone.
After executing Harrumor (no one wanted to be responsible for an angry tiefling hellmage prisoner) and finishing exploring the cellars, the party realized it was getting late in the day. Having exhausted the leads available in Vontarin’s mansion, they decided to return to Duponde before nightfall.