It was such a simple thing really. A chest made of wood. Oak, actually. Shardon approached it gingerly to study the thing from all sides careful not to touch it. Not yet.
The already sturdy wood was hardened with age. A dark stain had been worked into the grain so that it appeared almost black in the dim light. The metal bandings wore a slight green patina in some places. Various dents and scuffs indicated that it was probably well traveled. The nautical markings on the back suggested that it was once a ship board locker. There was a blotch on the right that could be a scorch mark, as if it was once rescued from a nearby blaze.
Just a simple chest, but to Shardon it was a thing a beauty. Like all such chests, locked and guarded in the dark places of the world, it held such potential. What would he find, riches or ruin? One miscalculation, one notch overlooked, and this could be the last such chest he ever looked upon.
The halfling took a deep breath. Satisfied with his visual inspection, he ran his hands lightly over the surface. The wood was extremely smooth from many years of wear. Here there was a small nick. Here a slight depression perhaps from some warping of the planks. Along the bandings he felt the slight ripples from the smith’s hammer. What was this? One of the bandings along the curved top felt out of place. The ripples followed a different pattern from the rest. Studying it closer, Shardon deduced that the original banding had been replaced some years after the chest was first created.
Shardon moved on to study the lock. It was a good size. Not so large as to be ostentatious but big enough to do the job. He also knew that the mechanism wasn’t particularly complex. He had seen others like this. It had originated from a locksmith in the southern realms some years ago. It was likely over one hundred years old.
Shardon pulled out his tools, gave the thing another once over, and went to work. It was effortless, really. With one hand he gently worked the tumblers, with the other he gave a slight twist. The lock came free with a click and the halfling winced involuntarily as if expecting the worst.
Slowly he lifted the lock free from the clasp. He was confident that he hadn’t missed anything. There were no needle holes, no poison gas vents, no arcane runes that would spell his doom. Yet a tiny part of him wondered if his next action would be his last.
“Oh well,” he though. “At least it’s been fun.”
He opened the heavy lid with both hands. The iron hinges groaned in complaint. Then… nothing.
Shardon opened his eyes. Light reflected all around him in thousands of mesmerizing iridescent colors.
The chest was full of gems.
In the hallway beyond the secret door, the companions dealt with spiked floor traps and strange motes of light that seared their flesh. Shardon dealt with the floor traps while the rest of the party handled the motes. The source of the motes was a pair of sea snakes carved into the nearby wall. By smashing the sculptures they were able to dispel the motes.
Moving on, the party found a dark bed chamber full of musty tomes and containing a locked chest. Immeral scanned the bookshelves and found three manuscripts of interest, Daemons and Their Ilk, Abyssal Numerology and Symbolism as Applied to Mortal Conjurations, and Iggwilv’s Demonomicon. Shardon studied the chest and determined that it was not trapped. He picked the lock and opened it finding 3000gp worth of gems, a Whistle of Warning, Battle Standard of the Hungry Blade, Boots of Eagerness, and Unfettered Thieves’ Tools.
Finally the party discovered a shrine to Dagon and interrupted a ritual in progress. The head of the cult, Althanis, urged them to lay down their arms and join in the veneration of Dagon. The party refused and moved in to attack.
The ensuing battle was a tough one. The party fought multiple fish men, Althanis and his spells, and Althanis’s assistant who also wielded various spells. To make matters worse, their enemies were able to use the various statues located around the shrine to teleport from place to place. Eventually the odds tipped in favor of the heroes. Sensing this Althanis fled from the shrine with the warning, “This is not over!”.