Not quite how I had expected it.
When I had first penned this adventure down, I knew it was well above the character's capabilities and knowing their penchant as of late - expected they would hire some people to help.
My fault was in not letting the players know (even subtly) that this was my plan. There was a party of adventurers already in the area - as bandits - and they as a group are slightly more tough than the party.
Te expectation was that they would split up at one point with the group directing the bandits to the dungeon while the party took care of other matters top side. After the last almost TPK we had a come to the table moment and the party then realized what I had been hinting at (which was a shame- because the party leader (as the person) DID figure it out just before the last TPK meeting and was already going towards the idea of doing that - but was absent at the table in real life that night).
So for this meeting - we had 1 first of 4 major end of campaign combats - and this one I expected was to be the party's entirely. And they did terrific. First class job, everyone worked together, and everyone performed their role perfectly without stepping on other people's toes.
Write up follows:
We awoke early enough and broke our fast. From there we discussed spell choices and tactics for a while before readying ourselves for the trip back to the Griffanus Estate and eventually the dwarven cavern.
We met up our hirelings (Liscinia, Vestanus, and Funis) first and then proceeded to the apartments to gather up Castus and his band of adventurer bandits. We travelled off towards the Thanach homestead where we picked up Pecheri and introductions were made. Our numbers were the party of 6, and Flimflam’s two animals, the three hirelings, Castus’ band of 11, their 7 animal companions, and Pecheri – bringing us to a total of 30. It was time to end this Hades threat once and for all.
We looked over the Griffanus Estate though and felt very uncomfortable. A haze had settled over the entire place, a prickling to our skin, and assault to our senses. It was quiet, and just foul. No one wanted to risk walking near the home or going through the gate. Instead we travelled around the entirety of the Estate to the north side nearest the grotto and clambered over the wall one at a time…on guard and waiting.
Even the burbling water was a mere sodden pulse, the grasses cold and yellowing, the trees tired and worn. Nothing made us feel at ease.
As for the cavern entrance, the stairs went down 10’…and ended at a wall. A wall that was not there 3 days earlier. It was featureless and smooth and we distrusted it completely. Castus’ people had sledges and picks and they assaulted the wall for 15 minutes plus until the stones that comprised eventually shifted and weakened enough and we were able to knock a hole in it large enough for us to pass under and through.
A lit torch was tossed in. The stairs continued 10’ further down, then a sloping corridor…and then another wall.
This meant more time. And our attempts at entering had not been quiet. The dwarven necromancer and his ilk had to know we were here and getting closer. Flimflam and Castus discussed the situation and decided that our party would go to the Griffanus house and check it out while Castus and his people finished knocking a hole in the 2nd wall. We agreed and left the grove, heading closer to the house itself.
Based upon Erd and Tranis’ estimation from a few days ago, the strange decrepitness and aging of the home seemed to have advanced, no longer confined to the interior, but encompassing the exterior as well. We circled the house twice, not trusting the porch, the windows, the doors…nothing. It just was howling to all of our senses that this was wrong.
The call was given to burn it to the ground, and if there was a 2nd entrance in the house somewhere, it would be better to pick through the rubble than to risk entering. The party was in agreement and a torch was applied to one corner. The dry-rotted and withered timbers went up swiftly and in no time, the roof had caught. The thatch insulation under the shingles spread the fire across the entire house and in a short time black flames and smoke were reaching skyward. The party backed up and watched the house burn with a critical eye.
When the upper cross beams finally gave way and collapsed to the main floor, it spread the fires even more and cause the center of the house to sag in. The fires rose higher and then there was an odd crack, followed by a burst of heated air and a rising purplish plume that eventually turned to regular fire.
What the fuck was that?
While the group was discussing it, there was the crack of thunder in the air to the south near the Thanach home. We raced around the fires and ran to a clear section so we could see better, and what we saw made our blood run cold. A floating giant like figure composed of necrotic flesh was on the OTHER side of the Thanach home and bounding up and down, heading away from the area and towards the town.
We shouted to Castus’ man that we were in pursuit and that they should press on to the dwarf; the group would follow afterwards. And then we ran. It was over 300’ away when the chase began and we found ourselves spreading out as the slower and heavily armored members were left behind. When the range dropped to 200’ and less we let loose long and short bows; arrows plunging into the floating figure. To no avail. We needed to get closer.
Meanwhile it had crossed the barrier of the Thanach Estate and was now in another homestead, the peasantry there running for their lives. We ran on, closing the gap with each pounding step. More arrows flew and seemed to do nothing. Closer now we could see the figure was over 14’ tall and composed of multiple pieces of dead flesh stitched together somehow in the crude parody of a man; giving it greater size and breadth. No one wanted to get too close.
That’s when we had Curufin and Encrinus start to sling the vials and vials of holy water (from the church of Zeus) and holy wine (left over from the church of Demeter). They worked wonderfully. The undead golem howled and shivered, its flesh twisting under the smoking residue of the blessed water. Its guts were trailing under it like some morbid balloonist’s tethers, the entrails scoring the ground and killing every blade of grass it touched. More holy water followed and it roared in response.
Some of its guts flashed against the earth hard and then a zombie burst from the ground and stormed towards the party. This is where Funis and Tranis (with Steiner and a couple of the other members trailing up behind) ran interference, the two main fighters meeting the zombie head on and their enchanted weapons taking it down before it could even return a blow.
The goliath meanwhile was floating lower and crouching down, digging its stitched together toes into the earth…and then it jumped forward, clearing much of the space between it and the house and leaving us momentarily uncomfortably out of range – and it that much closer to town.
We ran forward again, more flasks flying, while the monstrosity worked its way over the house (collapsing part of it in the process) and its guts popped up 2 more zombies. Flimflam called to Demeter and summoned a hippogriff to stand before the zombie, hoping to slow it down, while Marcus was calling for flasks of oil as well. Funis with his enchanted mace and Tranis armed with the Day Star made a remarkable duo and kept the constantly summoned zombies down to a manageable number.
It was while the floating zombie was passing the unharvested wheat field that Flimflam had a brain spark and cast Entangle in the area, wrapping the stalks of wheat around it’s legs and pulling it down from the sky – stopping it in its tracks.
From here we had a constant barrage of oil and holy water plied against the zombie figure, boiling off large swaths of the monster and causing all sorts of fetid morass to stain the earth below. The hippogriff had made the mistake and flew too close, killed outright from the zombie’s terrible blows, and the summoned hobgoblin Marcus called upon next didn’t last a dozen seconds when the floating undead thing caught it in its grasp and crushed it’s chest.
We were tearing it shreds with vials and vials of holy water and burning oil, slowly and steadily round after round. No one wanted to dare close within striking distance especially after Flimflam tried to summon a baboon right next to the undead creature and attack it…but it was caught just as it appeared out of thin air and destroyed in 3 seconds.
The figure tore out a handful of its own guts and hurled them in the party’s direction! Liscinia held the ground, her tower shield presented wide ways while as many who could huddled behind it and her. The ropy guts did score the magical steel face like acid – but our shield bearer’s resolve held true as she deflected all the missiles coming out ways and kept the party safe.
The entangle spell would not let the figure flee, no matter how many times it hunched down and attempted to tear free. Its form shivering, awash with both flaming oil in places and sodden with holy water in others, it finally collapsed to the field and fell over and apart. To Tranis holding the Day Star and to Flimflam, druid of Demeter (and hater of all things Hades), they both suddenly felt a wave of satisfaction flow them coupled moments later by an keen interest to run back towards the Griffanus Estate and finish off the dwarven necromancer stationed underground there.