One of the issues about splitting the groups is the habit of Meta-gaming - importing knowledge into one character group that they couldn't have because they weren't part of the other group.
There was a long pause by the halfling thief when he realized that the mound of statues he was looking at was the same mound of statues his alter ego had passed 6-7 hours earlier in game time - going the other way. The 2nd group has no idea that he 1st group is down here - nor do they know that that said group is on the way down to the 3rd level. So it was with some gritting of teeth that the halfling led the 2nd party towards the collapsed stairs.
Now, the stairs were destroyed, but I assumed that one of the parties would attempt to get out no matter what (and truth be told, there was a set of armor in the Dwarven area that had the ability to impart flight - which could have had someone ferrying people from bottom to top - the party never found it). The glyphs were decided on afterwards in response to the "battle" the dark dwarves and gnolls were having with Adventuring group "one", but were avoidable should the party get creative and interesting (which they did).
It's going to be give and take for a bit on Detheron, Gwyn, Arnog, and Dargis to see what happens on the way "out". And I am interested in seeing how they handle this wrinkle.
Write up follows:
Karis, Coruth’tae, Spax, and Thad discussed what was the next direction to take, with the half-ogre and the elven illusionist discussing at length the possibility of going back to the goblin area and trying to get into the “Lyreth warded” area with the smooth wall – convinced that it would have some sort of treasure room behind it. The thought was that if we were going to go down to the city below, we would need some sort of coin to help us barter our way through and along.
However both Spax and Thad wanted to only get out of here and get to the surface to give Roxarn and company a good thumping. Plus they had not had a good encounter with the goblins before and there was all the possibility that the greenskins would not be nice. So we opted to work our way down before waiting too much longer.
We left Sakath’s throne room and walked our way unmolested across the ancient dwarven halls until we arrived at long last by the far west area of the city. It was here that the ceiling sloped down and the floor became uneven. There was a mounding of statues here, almost 30 of them. They were 20 feet tall and some had been brought here on their bases, others off. They were tangled amongst one another with no reason or rhyme. What were they doing here? How did they get here and why? No explanation was forthcoming so we pressed on.
Beyond the statues the hallway “T”ed – the left most fork showing MUCH greater amount of traffic. We traveled that way, the cavern much rougher hewn than the dwarven tunnels and chambers we had been in before. In a short time we heard the sound of gnoll voices up ahead, quite a few of them. As we had the phosphorous fungus above to light our way we saw the widened area at the same time that the gnolls guarding it saw us.
There were a half dozen 5’ tall walls erected across the sides of the corridor that would funnel whoever was coming through the area down the center of the cavern. A dozen gnolls were guarding the area, clad in leather breastplates with rough hewn chain sleeves. There was something on the ceiling 25’ above, massive, but in the gloom it was nothing more than a large shape.
Some parlaying occurred with the gnolls ordering us surface dwellers to go home. Spax, the only one with the ability to speak gnoll, spoke for the party, trying to barter for passage. One of the gnolls was very mouthy and insisted on 100 crowns a piece to pass. Obviously extortion, Spax offered that same amount to not kill them all. Thad stepped further back and drew his bow while the mouthy gnoll came around the wall and said something about “skewering your damned mouth closed”, his ranseur flickering in the dull light.
A 3 count of gnolls yipped and barked and ran off while others started to clamber over the wall and run forward. A few of them sent missile weapons flying and Spax was struck. Karis tried to step in front of the charging gnoll but it snuck past and stabbed the mage in the shoulder. Spax then cursed out a flame spell and a 15’ fan of fires coursed all over the gnoll’s face and chest, setting him fully ablaze as he howled; the mage walking calmly after him with the fire still coursing out of his hands.
Eventually when the fire guttered out, the other gnolls were stunned and not wanting to risk angering the mage or his friends said that it was a misunderstanding and of course the party can pass. Spax gave a retort that all he wanted to do was walk by and the gnolls gave passage (after they disabled the giant hammer trap on the ceiling).
Beyond here we took care, knowing that 3 of the gnolls had run on ahead. There was a sloping to the corridor ahead of us and a depression that was slick beneath our feet, small hillocks of stone sticking out of the inch of oil coating the ground.
And there in front of us were 3 gigantic 9’ tall spiders. Mounted on top of them were three Duergar armed with crossbows. And standing just behind them were the 3 gnolls, pointing at the party and nodding their head. The groups looked at one another and then one of the dwarves said, “They look close enough to Vanir’s description. Take them down.”
At that instant Karis charged forward across the oily pool, Thad ran backwards, and both Spax and Coruth’tae readied spells in an effort to strike the dwarves first. But the Duergar brought their crossbows to bear and when they fired them, there was a thick sparking as the bolts left the weapons and the quarrels were aflame. Coruth’tae abandoned his spell and ran for one of the small hillocks of stone while Spax ignored the rushing missiles and ground out the final words of a Fireball. It streaked away towards the dwarves and then burst – and the flaming missiles, they hit the oil.
The concussive blast immolated the gnolls, burning them badly and slaying one outright – the others broke ranks and fled screaming. The dwarves were protected from most of the blast by their mounts, who suffered horribly. But the oil ignited and Coruth’tae scrambled onto a hillock, choking in the fires and Spax was howling as he flapped the oil soaked and burned trailing end of his robes all over the place trying to get clear of the flames.
Thad fired but the arrows went wildly, not striking anything. Karis stood his ground as one of the Duergar and spiders charged at him, weapon flashing. The melee was short and brutal and he was bit but the terrible arachnid. Spax tried to jump clear of the flames but failed and landed face first in the burning oil, the fire choking in his lungs as he rolled free and slumped into semi-consciousness. Coruth’tae tried to jump from burning hillock to burning hillock but was forced to go slowly, the illusionist getting hurt in the process. Thad fired arrow after arrow, eventually killing one of the spiders and then finishing up one of the dwarves.
One of the dark dwarves hit Karis with an enfeeblement spell and then he was plastered with a Vampiric Touch, the half-ogre growing weaker. But he was already beyond normal human and his great sword took down the last of the dwarves and Thad’s bolts wiped out the last spider. Coruth’tae used his Declarig wand of healing on Spax and himself a few times and when the oil fire burned out we crossed the hot stones and healed up Karis a bit too.
We looked over the dark dwarves and their area. They seemed to have some knowledge of us and eventually we came across a letter penned almost 7 months or so ago by Vanir, describing the party and advising someone called Kashtir to take us down. We readied our selves, gathered our belongings and made our way towards the wide corridor that sloped downward into the depths of the earth and the 3rd level referred to as Byfortvile.
Meanwhile Detheron, Gwyn, Arnog, and Dargis made their way out of the gloom of the Spiderhaunt caves and back into the main portion of Dargan’s Folley after passing a pile of 20’ tall dwarven statues that had been knocked over and mounded near the back of a sloping corridor. The place seemed quiet, unlike the last time either pair had been through here. There was talk about going through the goblin portion of the caves but it was thought it would bring us too close to Shengdu the gnollish wizard-smith and the 4 adventurers just wanted to get out.
Instead it was thought we would look over at the Chasm and see if we could fight our way across the guards positioned there. It wasn’t until we got close that we learned there were NO gnolls keeping guard. None. Where were they? What happened? We cautiously picked our way over the bridge and made our way across the grand hall until we came to the shattered stairs.
A battle had taken place here. Two Duergar, half a dozen humans, a dozen gnolls, 4 shocker lizards, and the stairs out destroyed. We looked them over and it was a pitched fight – but most likely some of the humans had won as there was fortified area in the rubble. Where they went we did not know. Arnog and Dargis denied that any of the fallen humans were friends of theirs, which meant that if they were adventurers, most likely the Red Clouds had sent them in as well. Both pairs wanted to confront Roxarn and the only way that was going to happen was to get out.
Dargis was given the ability to climb like a spider from Detheron and the wiry halfling, with the entire party’s length of rope (90’) and a grappling hook prepared, started shimmying his way up the wall. The spell was only going to last 6 minutes so he had to move fast. He made it to the top – the opening 15’ by 10’ in the ceiling, broken stairs leading on into the darkness.
He was going to just fling the grapple through the hole and settle it on the steps when he threw it through though a 4 count of wards fired off and he pulled his hand free just before getting burned! Glyphs! 4 of them – each set at the corners of the hole. Sliding down the rope he rejoined the group and we discussed options.
The glyphs didn’t mind the rope poking through, but did fire when someone went through. And they were electric in nature. Gwyn opted to go first, drinking his Tempestskin potion and climbing the rope. At the top he steeled himself and pulled himself through the opening – all 4 glyphs firing into the dwarf. His armor deflected some of the energy but the potion coursing through him took care of the rest. He was safe.
Arnog opted to go next, the young fighter getting a resistance spell from Detheron. He climbed the rope until he got to the top and then gritting his teeth pulled himself past the opening. The glyphs went off again and he was protected – but the rope had been burned TWICE before and the hemp fibers parted and the brave Arnog fell. Gwyn tried to grab for him but he was too slow and he watched the blond haired man fall into the darkness.
From below they heard the scream getting louder and Arnog crashed down the 90’ to the shattered stone on the ground where the brave young man was dashed into unconsciousness, his body hurt and bones bruised and broken – but miraculously alive!
Detheron asked Dargis if he cared about his friend and the halfling was unsure what that meant. It was only when the druid mentioned that the thief had a rather cavalier attitude about all his other slain friends down here, wanting to pick through them and their belongings time and again. The halfling smiled, said he liked Arnog, but did cut his money belt and slipped it into his own pouch.
Detheron was silent as he left the battered Arnog there and spider climbed himself, but not before casting a resistance on himself and on the halfling – then he went up the wall with the rope in tow where Gwyn was waiting nervously above, unaware of what happened below. They used a bit of chain to space out between the bottom of the grapple and the top of the rope – allowing the glyphs to fire their energy directly into the chain instead.
Meanwhile Arnog awoke and the tired fighter (who was lightly healed by Detheron before the druid had ascended before) waited with his friend until the rope came back down. Dargis went first and Arnog last and at the top of the hole the halfling “returned” the fighter’s pouch (which garnered some more snide comments from the dwarf about the reliability and trustworthiness of Halflings).
The group made their way tiredly up the stairs until they arrived at the top, and from there they went on to the entrance room of the Stronghold level. At the top of the stairs they went to the great door and tried to open it – but the metal wheel refused to budge. They each took turns but it seemed locked or stuck.
Detheron said he could open it but as his spells were all exhausted and the party was likewise, we opted to rest back in one of the barracks rooms and try our luck on the morrow.