With henchmen, the party numbers 8 - the weakest member is a 16 year old hireling 4th level 98 lb human thief - with enough poison to drop a charging rhino. Twice. Per hour. So when they stumble into a trap (incidentally, not all of them are mechanical in nature) I as the DM watch with some trepidation. Is it too much? Too little? Will I have a TPK?
In this case - it was a slaughter. For the enemy.
At 24 to 8 - which equates to 3 to 1 odds, the party was even surprised and assaulted first, and within 2 minutes they turned the tide of battle and took prisoner the lone survivor. And then turned the lone survivor into a henchman of their own.
And now with 9 in their stable - wanted to tackle the biggest knot of lizardmen and take names.
I can tell you - planning will be their key and saving grace in the next major encounter.
Write up follows:
The battle with the lizardmen continued strong. Nelia and Haydin, our two newest hirelings, accorded themselves well with javelin and sword, wading into the fight where able to and adding their own skills to the rest of the group’s. Arnog stayed by Soren, defending the ranger from any further unexpected blows. Gwyn took aim and shot his 250 lb pull heavy gnomish made crossbow at one of the lizardman shaman and blasted the enemy off his feet, knocking him to the ground. Norris drew his long sword and helped hack down one of the closer halberd wielding enemies. Coruth’tae fired off a color spray spell, hurled sanding turning into a stunning wind that knocked three off the scaled humanoids down.
From there the battle turned swiftly and the party put down foe after foe. Brother Beren hurled a spiritual hammer skyward and had it slam down during the fight. One of the lizardmen tried to run, shoving his way back into the complex in an effort to escape but Arnog hoisted his enchanted sword over his head and hurled it with all his might – the blade spinning until it plowed into the fleeing lizardman and knocked him over. More than enough time for the maddened fighter to tackle it and finish the job close up.
We took tails and dragged the lizardmen into the stables, shutting the door and taking stock of the situation. No one seemed to have heard us and we were seemingly lucky so far. Some healing was given out and eventually Soren was able to move again. We lined up and as a party, we reentered the complex ready for anything.
The room past the stables that once housed the giant sundew was empty, as was the numerous foes we had dropped some 3-4 days ago. It was decided that we should carefully go past where the lizardmen and basilisks once were and check out the stonecutter’s shed. It was empty and we reapplied the locking bar. No one wanted to enter the graveyard/cemetery.
We returned to the intersection and went back to the room where Olthar had been turned to stone. A cautious listening and a quick look through the hole in the door showed that it was not in use and no one was there. We followed the hall until it turned to the right, a breeze blowing towards us and making our torches flutter. There was a short corridor with a door on the left wall and then a set of stairs going down into the darkness. We listened at the door and it was also silent, a quick look revealing nothing except old ruin and an empty chamber perhaps 20’ square.
This brought us to the steps downward. We knew there were still basilisks not too far from here and we went down with severe caution. It was 20’ down, the area was rough and unfinished, barely 5’ in width, 7-8’ in height. The smell of old meat and earth was strong. The corridor went to the right and the left, the group opting to go right.
The subterranean corridor went some 30 paces or so until it opened to a natural chamber, 6 other possible exits were visible, 3 of which were no larger than 3’ off the ground. A half dozen 6’ tall insectoid men (similar in shape and body as the ones we had seen in the depths of Dargan’s Folley) were here working on leather and bits of netting, a small number of very large ants skittering about the chamber. We immediately backed away and moved as quietly as we could – not wanting to get into any fight with these denizens.
Once back at the base of the stairs, we decided to go left. It was some 50 paces or so of narrow corridors and nervous glances (with another 1 or 2 of those smaller 3’ tall tunnels crossing the main thoroughfare as we trod onward) until we came to another chamber. This was not large, maybe 10 paces oval, another passage on the far side leading onward into the gloom. There were 4 pits in here – each one 3’ around and 3’ deep – currently empty. Along the northern wall was a metal ladder affixed on the wall going upward to what seemed to be a trap door in the ceiling.
We walked past the pits and Gwyn climbed, looking cautiously up at the top as he lifted the stout wooden portal. It was a narrow room and long, filled with over a dozen humans clad in ragged cloaks and chained to the walls. At least 3 orcs were in here, wearing leather and sporting whips and swords. Slavers.
The group wanted to get out of this area with the antmen, not wanting to engage them in combat if we could help it. And going up top here and taking out the slavers seemed the right thing to do. It meant we would have even more people to watch after but just knowing slavers were here was not something we wanted to just brush over and skip past. We would have to take the orcs by surprise and do it fast and quietly.
It was decided that Arnog, Haydin, and Soren would go first, followed by Gwyn, Brother Beren and then the rest of the group. We readied ourselves and then took to the metal steps. We opened the trap door, a few of the closer slaves surprised to see us. Mouthing quietly to them we stepped up, drew weapons, and by the time Soren was up and in place Arnog tackled the first orc with his sword hacking down. The porcine humanoid whirled at the last instant, his own blade rising up, and the clang of steel on steel was on as we surprised the foes.
Soren loaded up a stonebiter arrow and shot across the entire length of the room, critically hitting the orcish leader, an almost 7’ tall brute with a Romanesque helmet and whip. The shaft whistled as it dug into the commander’s chest and knocked him back against the wall.
The priest, illusionist, and dwarf came up next, weapons ready. Arnog and Haydin were surprised that the lead orc was still not down, while the second one was smiling cruelly. Coruth’tae shot at the lead orc, HITTING the same stone biter shaft inside the commander’s chest! The orc fell back and as he was slumping over, Soren shot him a third time – the next shot hitting him in the same area. Gurgling and panting he was dragging himself down past a small alcove when all hell broke loose.
The “slaves” all stood up, dragged short swords out from underneath themselves, and the manacles and chains that were around their wrist fell away as they were never on. In a single roar the “slaves” fell on the party and hacked and chopped at the group who were surprised at this turn of events. The slaves were actually half-orcs, now obvious as by the size of them and their features twisted in the flickering lamp light without the aid of concealing hood and cowls disguising them. They hit and hacked and chopped and snarled and tried to bury the party under their assaulting punishment.
It was here that Arnog’s skill came to the forefront. With his sword held high he spun and slashed and ducked and parried and dealt blow after blow after blow at the throng about him, the skilled fighter dropping SIX of the half-orc slaves in just under a minute. Haydin followed suit, the brawler taking down another in a fury of blows one after the other. Arrows filled the hall and the half orcs who had thought they had the party dead to rights were shocked to see it was not the case. Coruth’tae called forth a powerful illusion and made it appear as if a chain lightning crawled across the chamber – “slaying” another half dozen of the half-orcs.
The last armor clad orc tried to intervene but Arnog shoved past him while Nelia hurled a poison tipped javelin at it and Haydin, Norris, and Gwyn surrounded the slaver and took it down with a multitude of blows. Arnog rounded the corner and the sounds of fighting were short and fierce, the orcish leader’s head actually bouncing into the main room without the body. The last half orc dropped his sword, sat down heavily, and put his own hands in the manacles, locking them up and said, “I surrender. Who in THRYM’S name are you people and where did you come from?!?!?”
We spoke to the last half orc at some length and learned many things. His name was Kazak and was once a member of the Goretusk clan, a group of orcs living north of here. His clan had been beaten some half dozen years ago by some lizardman tribe and they had been all carted off and traded time and again until they arrived with the Greenscales. Once here they acted as liaisons between the various slavers and the lizardmen – earning their freedom and making a sort of home for themselves here.
The temple complex was home to not only the lizardmen above, but also the antmen below – and something else. Kazak had never seen it, and whatever it was, it sort of “ruled” the lizardman tribes – uniting them in a way that had not been seen before and giving them ideas and plans not normal for the lizardmen. As for the sheer number of ghouls, the complex was once holy ground to Sif, but had been decayed and corrupted – and now whoever dies here there is a chance that their corpse arises as a ghoul at some point later. Whatever it is that “rules” here – also seems to have something to do with the ghouls and the corruption.
We asked Kazak where the best place to find more lizardmen was and he was very forthcoming, giving us a layout of the upper area and the temple ground itself where a number of lizardmen could be found. He owes no allegiance to the complex and with the knowledge that the group can discard him at will, he was willing to offer his services and sword arm to us if we could get him out of the swamp and to a friendly place (he does have some ability at ciphering and knows his numbers). We accepted his offer and Kazak clad himself in some of the orcish leather, the help, and gripped his sword with confident and expectant fingers.