We started off the night’s adventuring with the PC’s having just survived an ambush from a group of medusa archers. Post battle Romulus climbed up to the ledge that one of the archers was attacking from to discover that there was a cave that led further back into the mountains, there was also a similar one on the opposite side of the valley. I was a bit surprised to see how eager the party was to explore the cavernous tunnels, though it was somewhat in character for the group. If there is even a chance that there could be some gold stashed away they are all about it. At this point Al’landia decided to head back into the valley from the way that they came to cover up their tracks and see if they were being followed (the player for Al’landia was unable to make the session, so this was her exit). Romulus threw a rope down to the rest and within moments they were creeping through a narrow corridor, heading deeper into the mountains. Again they were let down by their perception abilities (Spot and Search in this case) and walked right into a trip wire that sprung a falling rock trap. It didn’t do a lot of damage, but certainly served as an alarm for whoever may be lurking in the darkness.
Several minutes later they found themselves engaged in a fight with a pair of archers, shooting at them from about 60 feet down the hall. Glee and Mgabwe charged the pair, the others hung in the back. While using his Frightful Cleave ability, Glee was let down for the first time by his Ring of Blink. As he attempted to bring down his greatsword on a prone medusa he blinked out for a moment and his sword passed through the ethereal plane, rather than the neck of the monster. I think we all know that this is really going to come up in a big spot sometime, we’re all just waiting for it. He wound up making up for it with a pair of criticals on his next attack. Mgabwe survived two attempts to turn him into stone from the gaze of the creatures. The three others were surprised when a fireball exploded in their location, none of them had noticed the medusa sorceror sneaking up on them from the back. Romulus escaped unharmed due to evasion, but Henri and Lela took the full damage. The rat familiar of Henri, Gertrude Charlemagne, also avoided the damage by leaping from Henri to Romulus (which just added to the growing tension between these two). The rear group clearly did not want to close on the medusa for fear of it’s gaze attack, so they pelted it with arrows. Expecting this the caster had thrown up a Protection From Arrows spell prior to the encounter (clearly they had watched the fight in the valley and knew some of the PC’s tactics). Eventually Henri erected a Wall of Fire to buy them some time while they regrouped. The party buffed up with some invisibility, only to find the medusa gone when the wall dropped. Eventually they hunted her down and found her in a secret room along the corridor. An invisible Mgabwe went in first and got the drop on her with a full power attack, only to roll a one on his attack roll. Love when that happens. He resisted another gaze attack and then the medusa was killed by the rest of the party. Finding themselves in a relatively secure location, due to only having one way in and out, they rested for the night. They also found a magic ring on the sorceress, which was later identified by Lela as a Ring of Protection +1. Glee took it.
The next morning a debate erupted among the group as to whether they should continue to explore the tunnels, or head to The Cage and try to kill this Captain Arnold character. Eventually it was decided that they would head to The Cage since it was guaranteed money, but the medusa tunnels was added to the future agenda for the party. They set out the next morning and Henri stated his desire to leave as soon as possible, so he cast Fly and Greater Invisibility on himself and tried to get out of the tunnels as quick as possible, leaving most of the party behind. The Invisibility ran out quickly and he found himself facing off against two medusa archers by himself. He dispatched them with Lightning Bolts and eventually the help of the rest of the party. Very funny stuff from Henri. The rest of the party were sort of looking at him strangely as he flew down the corridor alone. They were probably hoping to come across his dead body so that they could loot it.
Back in the valley they continued northward in the direction of the prison. At one point they were passing along a high ridge and Henri caught a glimpse of something high up in the mountains. Set atop a mountain plateau there appeared to be a large stone temple, barely visible from where the PC’s were. It had Greek style columns out front and immediately grabbed the imagination of the party. The consensus among them was that this was the home of the medusas and therefore overflowing with treasure and magical items. It might as well have been a giant neon sign luring them in. I may also have peaked their interest by saying that even from this distance they could see the glint of stacks of gold. Of course I kid. There did not seem to be any sort of easy way to get to this temple, it would pretty much be mountain climbing to get there unless an alternate route could be found. Another location added to the Come Back and Loot Later list.
After another half day of travel they finally reached the vicinity of The Cage. Coming around a bend in the valley they found themselves looking down on a stone structure. The Cage was a one story stone building with a trench dug around three sides of it, the back of it was directly connected to the mountains. The trench was filled with spikes and spears, along with bodies in various states of decay. There was a large drawbridge style door in a raised position. A tower that was about 30 feet high rose up from the roof, it has a single guard stationed on the top it. Halfway down the tower was a single large open window. Looking to formulate a plan they decided to back away and prepare. Mgabwe made a Survival check and searched the area, finding a cavern that seemed suitable as a temporary base. While looking around it he came across a statue of a warrior type that looked as if was disturbed during its slumber. Obviously the medusas found the last party of adventurers that dared sleep in this cave.
They decided to rest up in the cave for the day, despite the stoned adventurer. While some were resting up Romulus and Glee went to scout out the area and gather some intel on the fort. Creeping along the valley, using some brambles and stone for cover, they set up a stakeout and watched the place for several hours from a distance. What they learned was that every couple of hours the guard on the tower is relieved by another guard who enters from a hatch that seems to be on the floor of the tower. At one point they also caught a brief glimpse of a well muscled arm that hurled a figure out of the open window and down onto the spikes in the trench around the fort. I like when these two act together since they established that they had been partners for a while, I mentioned that this was not the first time that the two of them were on a stakeout together.
A planned assault like this is sort of what the party was built for, or at least what they want to be so I was interested in seeing how it was going to play out for them. In my mind I felt that there was a good chance that it could degrade to a straight out assault quickly, though I put enough “backdoor” type entrances in that there was certainly a way to avoid melee right off the bat. They tossed around a couple of ideas, the two best being; the old bringing in the prisoner bluff routine (The Chewbacca), and getting onto the top of the tower and finding a way in from there. I’ll admit, I was very excited at the prospect of them bluffing their way in. It would certainly not be easy, but it would be fun to see if Lela has the chops for it. In the end, however, they chose option B and decided to infiltrate in the sneaky manner that they should excel at. During character creation Henri bought a Cape of the Mountebank, which allows for some medium ranged teleportation (via Dimension Door) but until now it had not been used at all. Reading the description they learned that the cape could teleport the wearer as well as three others up to 760 feet. Perfect for them. It would just leave one person out. What followed was pretty funny as they bickered with each other over how this would work. What made the most sense (they seemed to think) was for Henri to be the odd man out. There was a lone guard on the tower who needed to be killed as quick as could be so the plan was to get the combatants in there and take him out. Somehow in this process Lela wound up taking Henri’s cape and transporting everyone up while Henri stayed behind, waiting for the signal that all was clear so he could fly up. It was actually a very good strategy to leave Henri behind since he was capable of casting fly and getting himself up once it was clear. Henri was also a bit frightened that he would never get his cape back and tried to get Lela’s Cloak of Charisma as collateral. She said no and teleported away.
The crew appeared on top of the tower and Romulus went at it and completely butchered the lone guard, showing off his sneak attack two weapon style for over 80 points of damage. He never had a chance to even sound an alarm. Or scream. Or get away. I like the Cape of the Montebank, it’s very cool. I picture all of the PC’s emerging from the folds of the cape rather than just appearing next to the wearer. Glee investigated the hatch on the floor of the tower and found that it was locked and magically trapped, at which point they also found that no one in the party was capable of disarming traps with any kind of proficiency. Sort of a problem for this bunch. They decided that the best option would be the open window that they had seen the body thrown from, which was about ten feet down the side of the tower. Attaching a rope to one of the battlements, Romulus climbed down (after Mgabwe had made him invisible) and checked out the scene. He found what appeared to be nicely decorated bedroom, one that was empty as well. He entered and looked around more while the rest of the party made their way down the rope and into the room. They found a wardrobe filled with robes that would fit a very large man, also a locked steel chest that they were very curious about. A set of steps led up to the hatch and the roof, another set led down into the keep. Listening at the top of the steps they heard several voices coming from the room below. Again, an invisible Romulus crept ahead and found a large square room with several wooden tables, a group of a half dozen humans in arms and armor were sitting around. (As a side note, this party has an obscene amount of Invisibility at their disposal. Both Lela and Mgabwe can cast it, Henri has Greater Invisibility, and Glee has her Ghost Step ability.) Filling in the party on what he had seen, they once again switched into planning mode. The verdict was for Henri to make a Wall of Fire around all the soldiers while the others prepared for them. And that is what happened. Panicked by the fire and the damage it was doing most of the soldiers came running through the flames right into the waiting weapons of the party. The commotion alerted the heavy hitters in the basement and on the third round of combat the battle was joined by three half orc barabians in all of their raging glory, and a super sized half orc in full plate and wielding a flail.
What followed was a rather tenacious battle that brought out the best and worst of the PC’s. The guys that they were battling were clearly no joke; they could take a hit, deal one out, the one in plate mail was casting spells, and the barbarians could not be flanked which took away a good part of the PC’s sneak attack arsenal (Romulus especially saw his damage output greatly slashed in this combat), yet the party was sort of holding back at first which I was surprised at. In the first couple of rounds Henri was using Magic Missile, a Vampiric Touch from Mgabwe, some arrows from Lela. They were capable of much better. In the end they managed to win by pulling it together and using some team tactics, but both Glee and Lela wound up at -8 hit points, and everyone else was in single digits. It was close. Henri got very lucky when he failed to cast defensively, only to have the half orcs axe miss (he rolled a 2). They looted the bodies and found some keys on the flail wielder, who was obviously the leader of the place. Heading into the basement they found a hallway with three doors on each side; the three on the left were solid cell doors with little sliding peep holes, the three on the right were all different from one another. One was grated metal and looked into a torture chamber, an unlocked wooden door revealed a set of steps that led further down, and a large metal door had no locking mechanism and bore the symbol of the DuChamp family. Two of the prison cells were empty, while the third held Captain Arnold. Using the keys that they had they were able to enter the cell and question the man, who was willing to offer just about anything for his freedom. He was repeatedly asked things from all the different members of the party, most of whom were trying to find ways to turn him into more money than the 1200 gp they were offered for his death. In the end he was killed by the longsword and axe combination of Romulus, who was delighted at this outcome.
The steps from the hallway led deeper into the mountains and ultimately came to a large underground cavern with a lake in it. The lake was completely enclosed, there was no natural exit from it yet somehow there was a small sailing vessel anchored in the center of the body of water.
Through the use of some Dispel Magic they were able to open up the final door in the hallway, the DuChamp symboled metal portal. Inside the party was surprised to find a small child, about nine months old. She only knew one word, “Fiona” she replied to just about anything. There was also a table that had a bowl and cup, both of which immediately refilled when used. Testing this theory of replenishing supplies, Mgabwe removed the diaper from the child and defecated in it. He was delighted to see that his feces dissolved in moments.
As the mercenaries that are the PC’s began to discuss who this child could be and what she could be worth we decided to end for the evening. I thought that it was a good night of adventuring and development for both the characters as individuals and the party as a whole. A couple of future adventure threads were also established, which gives me some options as I began to plan the future of this world.