I had a long time member drop out of the game this week. His reasons are his own and I honestly wish him well in his endeavors. However he was a staple around the table (even including his flakey attendance, characters, and attention) and the group was initially concerned on how I was going to handle it (as I have a small group of tag-a-long characters that I DM-run during absenses and what-not).
So when I had him turn up missing during an encounter - and scarfing the group's healing wand to boot - eyebrows were raised and the party went looking.
And then I threw basilisks, devious traps, lizardmen, and ghouls at the group and they didn't give a hoot after the 5 round of combat where the missing party member disappeared to.
Write up follows:
We spent a few minutes getting our bearings and cleaning up some of the obvious wounds before readying ourselves and moving out. Olthar took the lead this time, checking carefully for traps and other issues along the way. There was an area of strange barrels and boxes of very rotted and decaying food stuffs and wines that had been shoved down a shallow corridor. We spent a few minutes looking them over, finding nothing of value, before moving on to the area which involved the party climbing to a 2nd floor.
At this point Coruth’tae noticed that Zoltan was not with him and no one in the group remembered when they saw the gypsy last. Telling Detheron he’d be right back, the grey elf walked backwards a short distance, calling softly for our friend as he looked around. According to his infravision, there was some tell tale heat signatures on the floor, fading now, that proved that a single person went back this way. He followed along, going beyond the ghoul room and even further back.
Meanwhile the rest of the group joined Olthar at the top of the steps. The chamber was sizeable, but the middle 20’ section of so had collapsed due to fire, dropping down to the first floor and then THAT floor had collapsed and it was straight down to the ruined basement level. On the left wall was maybe 5” of crumbling floor, on the right wall was perhaps 2’ of solid planking still, and across the middle was some unsteady but functional beams from the ceiling above that was acting like a bridge of sorts. A few plans were tried out, and the floor below was dangerously covered in broken trash, but it was Norris and his levitating boots that provided some solution. The bard travelled across the middle of the beam, floating just over the surface, towing a rope with him to help whoever came next to get across.
As for Coruth’tae, he got down to one of the doors and found it not only closed, but spiked from the other side! He bent his shoulder to the stout panel, working at it repeatedly until he heard first one, and then another metal piton slip free. He went to his waist to get out his shadow wand when he then noticed that his healing wand was missing! Damn – did Zoltan take that? Why? What happened? What was the purpose? He walked on, noticing that there was some strange noise from down the far hall. He approached, walked towards the opened door, and saw that the “repaired wall” had been broken down from this side, opening to the courtyard beyond. And coming through was a large wedge-shaped lizard head, 350#, hissing and dragging – basilisk.
Coruth’tae ran. The 8-legged lizard followed as the illusionist raced to the corner and thought about slamming up an illusion – he opted against it instead blindly shot a lightning bolt around the corner. The basilisk howled and roared, and the wooden and plaster wall crumbled away from the thunderous impact of the bolt, the lightning scoring far into the courtyard beyond.
As for the rest of the group, Soren was holding a rope anchored to the far wall by Norris and held tight by Arnog. The ranger worked across the wide right hand side of the wall when a portion of the floor slid free and the entire right wall fell in on him, dropping down to the ruined floor below. The ranger struggled back to the platform. It was then that we heard running and Coruth’tae returned.
We pulled him to the side and in an instant he told us what was coming. Norris was on the other side of the room, and the rest of us waited carefully while the basilisk ran up the stairs and ahead a few paces after an illusion of Coruth’tae that had been glamoured onto the beam bridge. Swords slammed down and poisoned arrows and bolts tore into the gargantuan lizard. We fought with eyes squinted or fully shut, hanging onto the scaly hide as we hit the beast again and again, its toothy maw devouring Arnog’s leg as the burly fighter slammed the beast in the head with his sword. And then it was done.
Detheron took to removing the creature’s eyes, the task easier as Arnog had hacked the beast’s head off. It was going along, with the party beginning to work their way across to the other side with the use of ropes and anchors when we heard a 2nd basilisk racing towards us from the stairs! The group drew weapons fast and as the beast hit the top of the stairs at a full run we hit it with everything we had, poison included. Its whipping tail slammed into the group as it dumped over the side of the hole and fell 30’ to the floor below. Arrows struck it repeatedly until there was no more noise. A trip down the hole had us get the other basilisk’s eyes and some healing was dispensed.
As for Zoltan’s disappearance and seemingly theft, we had no answers. It was not in the gypsy’s character at all and we were wondering if something else was afoot. The decision was made to press on, and we did so.
The hall meandered for a bit, another alcove filled with 3 barrels of vinegary wine. The smell of honey was growing strong and there was a decidedly noisy buzz in the air. Olthar went forward and we looked on as the thief entered the next room. Not too large, perhaps a ten count of paces square, door on the other side. Hundreds of flies and a 5’ diameter, 2’ tall ropy pile of tarry looking rags in the center. Didn’t trust it.
We discussed what to do when the ropy bundle had dragged itself closer and snapped out a pile of tendrils, slapping into Olthar and dragging him halfway across the chamber. Arnog and Gwyn leapt down and hacked at the mass of vegetation but their weapon’s stuck fast. Olthar was slammed backwards into the beast and his mouth and nose were hit, the thing trying to suffocate him. Detheron called it a sundew and we needed to break the adhesive and fast. Vinegar would do it.
Norris and Coruth’tae went back to the alcove and started rolling barrels down the stairs, the wooden staves smashing in and gallons and gallons of acrid liquid hitting the vegetable menace. The adhesive weakened and Olthar was pulled free. The sundew was unable to do more than flail about as we struck it again and again, slaying it at last. We looked underneath it and found old bones, scraps of hard to digest metal (button and buckles), as well as a ring of spell storing and some coinage! We snagged the treasures and took time to move on. We still needed lizardmen tails for the bounty.
The door opened to another area of the complex, the walls taking on a different look. We opted to go left (the other choices were straight and right) and went to the door at the hall’s end. Cracking it opened, we saw it had once been a stables, 6 stalls wide, loft above, a large double door leading presumably outside. But there were 4 lizardmen there – and it was our first time actually seeing one (that hadn’t become an emaciated ghoul).
Just a click of 6’ tall, very wide and muscular shoulders, large biceps, curious 4 fingered hands set in a fan shape and deeply taloned, some had a crest of red from their flat noses down their backs, large heavy balancing tails, each had to be closer to 260 lbs. Ok...not at all what we expected.
We wanted to take them out and do it fast, not to let any of them get away or raise an alarm. A plan was hatched; Norris, Olthar, and Soren would enter carefully and climb to the loft. Once up there they would net and poison sleep the two lizardmen closest to the door. Arnog and Gwyn would sneak in after the other 3 were in place and charge the closest two. Detheron would support with spells if needed and Coruth’tae would guard the hall to make sure we weren’t surprised by visitors.
The set up was fairly easy except when Soren leaned against a bad section of the loft and it groaned ominously. One of the lizardmen stabbed his sword randomly upwards from inside one of the stalls but after not hitting anything went back and returned to the 4 way conversation. And then it was time. Norris leapt down and missed netting one of the lizardmen. Soren drew bead on one of them and shot it, knocking it out. Olthar leapt down with sword and rapier and with weapons coated with poison, took out another one.
But the fight was on and Gwyn and Arnog was surprised to find the lizardmen for all their brute were also skilled fighters – and the two of them were suddenly not facing two easy marks but were fighting for their lives. Soren shot from above and Detheron, low on spells, called for guidance and other small blessings from Frey. It was touch and go until one and then the other lizardman fell.
But during the struggle the sounds of our fighting had attracted other beings – ghouls! A 5 count ran into the hall and Coruth’tae was forced back into the vinegary soaked chamber, ghouls scrabbling to tear at him. Only a frantic and life saving Shield spell kept the snarling undead at bay – but still their combined mass drove him into the corner. He wailed for help and Arnog and Gwyn ran to aid.
Arnog tore into the backs of the ghouls with savage fury and within a few minutes, the last of the undead were down and the grey elf was safe. We all regrouped back into the stables area and figured the time was between 3 and 4 in the afternoon – deciding what our next course of action was going to be.