I like a low to middling magic game - there shouldn't be piles of +1 swords littering the landscape neither should there be a magic user at every corner and clerics slinging miracles left and right. It makes those items when the do come up special, noteworthy, and defining.
So when it came to the King of the Web - I always knew he was going to be a Huntsman Spider of larger than normal size, and was going to be "awakened" thanks to the constant and close proximity to the artifact in Castle Sterling - but making him a druid just seemed to be right to me.
He has his own agenda, his own long and short term goals, and he has the power of the goddess Arachne at his fingertips answering his prayers as needed. The goal of the King though is to NOT be reactive to the party's actions, but to be the initiator of the momentum - to be the one that the party reacts to.
Write up follows:
We scouted and crawled under the door from the grand room in Castle Sterling to the hallway, the mouse leading the way. The hall was large and dark, heading off in all directions. We headed back to the main room and discussed our options before the mouse (named Dartagnin – no relation) became agitated and we heard a heavy presence on the other side of the door snuffling around and scratching the area. Cat. Big assed cat – especially at our size. It yowled and growled a bit, thumping the door and we all stood quiet.
And then it was gone. We heard some faint movement and it was heavy but went away quick. Content that it was gone, we then crept under the door, trusting Dartagnin that the colony and the Den Mother were in an area that the cat could not get to (doors closed between here and there). We hit the hallway, drew back into a square formation, and then proceeded to cross the large hall (hundreds of feet to our senses).
We also then heard the cat yowling…from the other side of the door we just vacated. Somehow it had found a way around the castle to the grand room and if we had stayed, we would have victim to its attack. We moved quickly, leaving the great room behind and hit the other side of the hall, then found another door where we crawled under and followed the mouse as he led us to the right hand side for some 500’+ until we came to another door. The vinegary smell of urine was growing heavier the further we proceeded, along with it a humidity to the air that made the scent cloying and foul.
Dartagnin’s voice was mere noises once again to Flimflam but we followed the mouse without delay under the door and we came to another chamber. The floor was smoother, less porous, and had regular valleys in it every 10’ or so where a type of mortar was in place. The humidity was much higher here and from some of the scattered torn up fabric about. We were in a bathroom. And from the number of mice here and the feces abounding, it was their warren.
We were surrounded and led to the mound of torn up towels where an older female mouse came out and started squeaking at us. Flimflam had Demeter give him the ability to speak with animals again and took the time to introduce us to the Den Mother and explain why we were here. The discussion ran about for a bit but effectively, we wanted to go up the stairs (from the hall we had just run through) to the 2nd floor and try to get to the room with the King of the Web (big spider that lives there with lots and lots of other spiders). The Den Mother thought we were nuts and hinted that there were also rats up there.
However, after talking, agreed that she would ask for volunteers to lead us up the steps. We decided to go in the middle of the hot part of the day tomorrow, when the cat would be least likely to bother us. For now we could rest here (we thanked her, but took up a camp area far away from the warren of towels and mice crap) and prepare for the morrow.
We awoke the following morning, Icemonth the 1st – heart of winter. The castle felt warmer to us (at our size) and we agonized over spells and spears and swords. Then the morning moved on until about 11. We had 24 mice coming with us (Dartagnin was one of them) and they led us out of the bathroom and to the side hall. We travelled down until we arrived back at the main hall and now it was lit from sunlight. It was long, maybe half a mile to us and there was some 4-500’ width to it. But there was a set of spiral steps to the south that we headed towards and looked on with deep concern.
Between the mice, rope, out lighter size, and the almost 20 of us, it was 5-8 minutes each step to climb and navigate. But we counted them off. Four, Seven, Eleven, Thirteen…At 12:30 we were at the top and 15th step. There was another hall here, also very long. There were also some webs in the area, wide rope like ones. But there was an opening, an arch of stone to the right, 200’ or so away, 150’ wide, and maybe 200’ tall. Many many more webs littered the sides and base of that archway. Thick and heavy, layers deep.
The mice all turned and left us, returning back to the main floor, only Dartagnin stayed with us. We wanted to get closer, but not too close. So we stayed in the middle of the hall and headed towards the opening until we could see properly inside. It was like something out of this world. There was some oversized furniture in there, a table or chairs. But every available surface was covered in webs from the ceiling down to the floor. Paths, 60, 70’ wide meandered through the room, in places the ceiling of webs dropped to 40’ in height. It was macabre, gothic, unnatural.
And nowhere we wanted to enter but someplace we had to go. A trio of torches were lit and Log of Everburning was cast upon them, given to Erd, Dugan, and Corane. At this point it was decided that Marcus would use his wand once more and try to zero in on where the artifact might be. So he fired one off, and it streaked away into the room and veered to the right, punching through the webs there and disappearing into the gloom. Bingo, right room, right place.
We gave some thought on burning the webs and Tranis lit a fire arrow, arcing it high and letting it fall into a funnel shaped web near the ceiling, we watched the dusty web smolder and burn, wider and wider, also noting other webs deeper in the room burning. It was then that a number of large orb spiders came out and proceeded to cut away the burned section of webbing until it fell from the structure and hit the floor. At the end of that short action, a breeze blew in behind us, raced through the archway, and coalesced into a sudden downpour of rain in a huge column of soaking wet air.
This extinguished all signs of fire and soaked the area making further fires in that section of the room impossible (at least until the water dried away). So we thought about our options. We wanted to go in with torches and discussed doing so when another sucking breeze blew in behind us, then centered overhead – and down poured on the entire party, soaking us to the skin and extinguishing our torches.
Ok, someone is making a statement about us and our fire. We know there were spiders in there, some movement went about towards the entrance but we couldn’t see anything. At that point we heard a cavernous voice echo from within after some benediction to Arachne. It identified itself as the King of the Web and from its tone and conversation, seemed…untrustworthy. Its words said one thing but the gut reaction of the group was opposite – this was not going to end well at all. It offered to talk to one of us and we agreed in theory to do so.
Then we discussed who would go in and although Horace was willing, the party settled on Avidius. Flimflam hit him with an Invisibility to Animals spell and the scout was willing to go in and try to find a way through the webs to get to the magical artifact. He moved slowly, picking his way through the humongous arch and looked around. The smell was old and dusty, the reek of spider was strong. Looking up he noted over a dozen brown recluse spiders on the lintel over the arch frame – none of them could see him. He moved on, staying to the right and disappearing down a wide path between the webs.
While he made his way along, he did note there was a large rat here, 20’ long, on its hind leg, waiting and looking – but it also did not see him. As the path between the webs grew smaller and the ceiling seemed to hang lower, the passages becoming thicker and he still wasn’t near the artifact, Avidius was stopped by the voice of the King of the Web speaking much closer and lower so only the thief could hear him.
He admitted he could see Avidius and that he wasn’t going to just let him through. He allowed the thief and him to talk and when it seemed that Avidius wasn’t going to risk coming close, the King of the Web stepped out – a very large, 5’ tall, 9’ diameter Huntsman spider. This was not going to work and Avidius wanted to return to the party, so he backed up and the King let him, talking crooningly the entire time, always staying for 40’ away. Avidius also noted there were lots of smaller spiders in the webs above, immature ones. This place crawled.
Once he was past the giant rat and was back in the clearing, the king gave a throaty chuckle and outlined Avidius in Fairie Fire – making him visible to the brown recluse spiders and the rat. Avidius turned and ran. Seeing him changing towards us, Erd and four others stepped out with spears and shields, approaching the arch but not stepping through – just getting ready to receive charge. The rat was gaining on Avidius who choked down a stoneskin potion, the gap between the two narrowing. As for the recluse spiders, half of them crawled to the other side of the arch and began climbing down to face the party while 4 others attached webs and began to drop and try to cut off Avidius. The last 4 turned and were shooting strands of webbing down to the floor, hoping to catch the running thief.
As Avidius came close to the archway and the rat was almost on him, the King of the Web called out to Arachne and hit him with a Hold Person spell. Avidius fell to his face and the rat unable to stop mowed him down and kept going, roaring and squeaking as it charged the fighters. Two of the spiders hit the ground by Avidius and bit him, injecting the thief with poison on top of his hold person spell and draining more hit points and constitution from our floundering thief.
Steiner called out a bless spell which encircled the party as our archers sent arrow after arrow into the charging rat. It ignored the shafts and bounded on as we prepared for its impact, noting the 7 recluse spiders coming towards us were more than halfway down wall and closing. A dispel magic from Marcus’ wand slammed out and hit Avidius, dropping the Hide from Animals spell and the Hold Person, but not the Fairie Fire spell. That was enough though for Avidius to start hacking at the webs the closer spiders had attached to his leg and arm – cutting his leg free.
The rat hit the spear wall like a freight train and the spears and shields held although Erd took the brunt of the assault. For their efforts though, the spears had penetrated deep and the rat fell over dead. Bolstered by this we redrew lines and prepared to face the spiders who were even closer now. A produce flame spell followed by Steiner who hurled the burning ball high and deep to the right, setting another section of the webs on fire. A summon animal spell had a giant centipede appear, actually right by Avidius who was on his feet now but still had his left arm bound by the webbing. Marcus called out a sleep spell and sent 4 of the 7 recluse spiders to sleep, dropping our concern to 3. The King of the Web called another Cloudburst spell, dousing his webs and putting out the fire made there.
The centipede actually got tangled in the web that was attached to Avidius, which meant the other spiders that had gone up to “hoist” him up were now unable to do so. However the 3 other spiders that had made it to the ground did engage the party and Whosea was bit and poisoned. We were knee deep in combat with 3 brown recluse spiders, the King of the Web was barely one step ahead of the party in dousing the flames, and Tranis and Steiner were getting ready to send more flaming arrows and produce flame balls in the room.