After racing in the last time and trying to catch the fleeing foe, they realized that the underground lair was larger and better warded than we expected it to be. So the party had pulled themselves back, spent 2-3 days healing and preparing better for the trip, and then re-entered - loaded for bear (so to speak).
And that meant hirelings.
With SIX bodies brought along (porter, linkboy, shieldbearer, cloistered priest, light footman, and heavy footman), they had a much denser party with multiple layers and the ability to have 2 facings should they get attacked from behind. Which (to their credit), did happen.
It's early in the trip so far, but we'll see how the rest of this goes. As typical, we are taking off a few weeks in Dec for the holidays and will reconvene with the campaign play on Jan 3rd.
Write up follows:
The party slept well, Flimflam and Zeta @ the Thanach estate, and the rest of the group @ the Mane & Tale Inn in Heatherfield. 6 AM on Watermonth the 25th came and the two respective groups began their morning preparations. One by one our hirelings and helpers arrived, eager and ready to join the group on their foray into the (now understood to be) dwarven/Hades blessed underground lair/fortress. We paid everyone for the upcoming day’s efforts and then went through the massive pile of supplies in place, dividing them out as need be as well as coming up with an acceptable marching order that would protect both sides of the line and those in the middle. Lanterns and torches were put in place and as a group we all ate breakfast.
We talked about what we would be possibly facing and each person’s place in the march as well as their job. Prayers were made and swords and spears sharpened. Only Encrinus, the Halfling slinger that was interested in joining us, was informed that we could not afford his skills. He was dismayed but in the same pique of confidence and overwhelming personality we had seen earlier, indicated that he would hang out with the Thanach’s for an hour or two should the group change their mind and call on his services.
It was after 8:30 when we left the home and approached the eastern wall leading to the Griffanus homestead. There was no guard there, neither was there any sign that anyone was on the estate. We could hear nothing from the barn; see no smoke from the chimney. It was eerily silent. The group was ill interested in using the gate, so we walked towards the far corner, clambered over the wall, and then picked our way along the perimeter of the property sticking to the trees until we came upon the grotto once again.
It took us some time (being it was after 9 now) but we arrived at our destination and proceeded to search for the enspelled entrance – eventually discovering it and causing it to once again become visible. We drew up into marching order, Flimflam handed out dozens of prepared goodberries, torch and lantern were lit, and we proceeded to make our way into the warm darkness below.
There was no obvious difference down the main steps, across the sloping floor, and down the second set of steps leading to the pentagram room. Here we noticed nothing different in the 3 days we had been gone earlier. Equipped now with a better idea on how to cross the bloody path, our leader informed us all to intone Hades’ name once before crossing to avoid the glamour’s affects – and he was correct. From here we went east towards the former storage room (that we had set on fire) and not towards the strange 12’ long crawlers down the northern passage.
The fire that had been here had burned itself out, the couch was a blackened skeleton, the cushions gone, the rug charred remains, even the barrels and millstone were ruined. We looked around only briefly and went now further in, this time to unmapped areas. We ventured north, assuming that this passage would join up @ some point with the other passage, on guard and wary for any of the crawlers.
What we did find were signs of passage. Bloody smears on the floor, there a discarded bit of clothing, here a show, there a broken doll, here a handprint of blood. We suspected the Griffanus’ had been taken by our quarry and brought down here, and from the growing signs of punishment and horror we were passing, it was very against their will and they were either gravely wounded of maybe even dead.
The corridor ended its northeastern heading and then turned sharply to the south, a set of steps leading down from here. At the base of the stairs we could see more bloody rags and signs of violence. Before travelling down, Zeta espied a busted trip wire, curled along the top step and held in place (At one time) by eye-hooks and an anchor along the eastern side of the stair. The wire had run out and down the steps, but whatever trap it had once been was now triggered and no longer an issue.
We walked down slowly, eyes peeled and ready for anything. At the base of the steps the corridor continued 15 paces or so and then turned left to some open space. But it was along the back wall that we saw a mounted crossbow platform – the bolt long gone. Ah, this was the trap that had been sprung. Based upon the angle, it was obvious that the bolt would have tagged anyone in the front.
We heard shuffling steps in the next room and decided to funnel the foes towards us where we could get a solid volley or two in first. So we positioned all of our archers on the steps so they could all fire and had Liscinia and Funis guarding the back ranks. Caeteccius and Auri were our heavy hitters in the front – and then we called to our foes.
They came around – spear wielding skeletons and slower but deadly looking zombies. Eight and three respectively they were – but the zombies were fresh – very fresh. We deduced they were at one time the very militia guards that had been stationed @ the Griffanus estate not a day earlier! And one of them had a heavy crossbow in its chest/gut – evidence of being a victim to the trap Zeta had seen.
The zombies fought with some skill, but had ponderous slowness to their movement. It was also strange to see them fight with spear and shield, something that Pawn, our cloistered priest said was not normal. Arrows had almost no affect on the zombies OR the skeletons, so we switched over to blunt tipped bolts and shafts, getting some results. Our volleys were sure, but the amount of damage done was little at best – and then the first of the skeletons hit our line.
Blows were thrust and met shields and armor with some small affect. But it was Caeteccius and his 20# war axe that cleared the way, felling TWO of the skeletons in the first 11 seconds of combat, his warlike blows driving the enemy back enough to clear the ground before us.
We then had the archers concentrate their fire on the skellies while the melee workers hit the zombies in force. And it was here that we learned the sad truth about the undead before us – the zombies were somehow enhanced. They fought with skill and knowledge, broke shields if need be, had sound tactics in assaulting the group, and were ducetly hard to kill, requiring at least twice the effort one would expect to drop them.
Because of this the battle lasted MUCH longer than we expected and we had to cycle people from the front ranks out and get new fighters at the fore. And the fight attracted MORE zombies – 4 of them, who came from behind us in an effort to close to battle. Our battle lines held in both places and then Pawn called out to Demeter and turned the undead facing the back of us – sending all 4 of them running away in terror.
Freed up once more, we were able to send a final flurry of strikes against the frontal enemy and took the last of the heroic-style zombies down. We then spent 20 to 30 minutes binding wounds, healing, prying the crossbow off the wall (damaging it in the process, but we did get it off) and checking out the next chamber that the zombies and skeletons had come from. It was a bit filthy and there was the smell of brimstone incense, indicative that the raising ceremony on the guards had been done here.
As to the rest of the Griffanus family? Bloody smears leading out of this room and towards another set of winding stairs leading further down let us know that as of yesterday (maybe) they had been alive and led in this direction.