With the medusas in the Temple taken care of it was time for the party to loot and pillage the area that they had lusted after for so long. Exploring the top of the Temple they found piles of bedrolls and other mundane supplies, it seems as if many of the creatures lived and slept at the top of the steps. They also found a slightly raised section of the floor that contained the familiar indentation of the snake that they have seen several times before. Before trying to open it up they decided to check out the half dozen buildings that were built up around the Temple.
At about this time Henri and Mgabwe got into a fierce debate about the nature of he arcane arts. A debate that could only be decided by the two of them teleporting far away to the appropriate research facility. And with that they were gone! (Both of these players are on separate European vacations for the next couple of weeks and will not be playing)
The six buildings were all very similar to one another from the outside; stone, rectangular, with a single entrance in the front of the building. The buildings contained various foodstuffs, a blacksmith, a small brewery, a weaving shop, and other necessities for life in the middle of nowhere. One of the structures contained a small set of jail cells, one of which was occupied by a young man. Excited to see the PC’s he introduced himself as Corwyn, and after being freed from his confinement he willingly told the party his story. From a minor noble family in Ocrist, Corwyn was taken on a fox hunting expedition by his Uncle Istvan shortly after turning 18. This was several weeks ago. While on this expedition with us Uncle he began to feel drowsy and a short time later he drifted off into unconsciousness. Fading in and out of awareness he remembered very little of what followed after, though he did recall being handed over to a group of women by his uncle and heard some talk of honoring an ancient agreement. When he next woke up he was in the prison cell. He said that over the last several weeks he was forced to have sex with the medusa Queen while all of the serpent headed women looked on. Though he admits that he sort of enjoyed it and was somewhat upset to hear that the beautiful Queen was killed. He also took an immediate interest in the fair Lela, trying unsuccessfully to woo her with his mediocre charm. She was flattered by it. The party pumped him for information about the medusas (which he knew very little of) and Ocrist (which he was happy to share with them). Corwyn asked the party to help him get out of the mountains, though he did not want to return to Ocrist because he was afraid of his Uncle. Instead he wanted to be brought to the Wicked Annabella, a roadside inn between Ocrist and Bowerstone that was owned by a friend of his. The party said that they would consider it.
Heading back into the Temple they inserted a necklace in the raised tablet and the whole thing lowered into the floor, revealing the bedroom and master chamber of the medusa Queen. Decorated with lavish carpets and tapestries, rich paintings and works of art, beautiful statues, and jewelry draped around the room the chamber was truly fitting of a Queen. Searching they also found a chest loaded with gems and gold, which they eagerly stuffed into the bag of holding. On one wall of the room there was what appeared to be a door adorned with the symbol of entwined snakes, the door had no lock or handle. Glee searched it (poorly) and came up empty handed, though the common sense of the group felt that it must be trapped. What followed was one of those bizarre D&D problem solving situations that could never happen in a fantasy novel, but always seems to pop up in role playing games. From the previous day’s battle the party had about a dozen medusa bodies laying around, so Romulus took one (after Corwyn dropped it into the bedroom from above) and hurled it at the door. The force of it set off a Blade Barrier trap, causing a whirlwind of knives and blades to orbit the doorway. The force of the throw also caused the door to budge open a fraction of an inch. Now, when I designed this trap encounter the party had two arcane casters and a Knock and a Dispel Magic would be easy to come by and would have made this encounter nothing more than something that chewed up a couple of resources for the group. However the two arcanists are off doing other things and the one caster in the party (Lela) does not have either of those spells. What was I to do? The party wanted to go through the door, I wanted them to go through the door. So we went with it. They all took turns throwing the corpses of medusas at the door. They made strength checks to see how far they could move the door with a body, I rolled to see how much of the body was chopped up by the blades. After exhausting their supply of corpses they then tried to avoid the blades and roll through the opening. It wound up being quite an encounter and they got cut up pretty good trying to avoid the blades (they should have been better since they all have good Reflex saves, but they rolled like crap) but eventually made it through in one piece. I love the visual of a demented gnome, a grotesque half orc, and a beautiful half elf hurling corpses through spinning blades at a wall. Let’s hear it for D&D!
Beyond the door was a stone corridor that twisted and turned it’s way into the heart of the mountain, descending into the depths. As the crew progressed down the passage the heat grew and small bursts of steam broke through the walls, the occasional burnt remains of things that were once humanoid littered the passage. They felt they were nearing the core of the mountain chain. They party all passed Fortitude checks to resist the effects of the heat and the continued on. Eventually the corridor narrowed and emptied into a large room of molten rock and steaming water in a lake of fire. The party stood in the entrance to the large chamber. The passage fed into a wide stone bridge that spanned the radius of the lake and onto a stone island in the midst of the fire. There was a stone altar with an ancient leather bound tome on the island. Spotting around the area they noticed in the fire a longsword in one section, and a suit of full plate mail on the opposite side. Romulus found some loose rocks and tossed them into the room; some landed harmlessly on the island and near the altar, other landed in the fire and angered the eight headed pyro hydra living in the lake! It attacked!
Similar to the Blade Barrier encounter, this fight was designed for a party of five rather than a party of three. I did weaken it a bit for them by giving the hydra eight heads instead of the eleven it had originally had, but I still felt like this battle could be the end of them. I figured that they had a shot, mainly because of the potential for a lot of damage very quickly from Romulus. What needed to happen was some bravery on the part of the PC’s. They couldn’t dance around and avoid melee, firing their weak ranged attacks. Romulus needed to get in there, flank with Glee, and go after the body of the hydra. Forget about the heads and everything else and go for it. Fortunately for them that is just what they did and Romulus hit the jackpot, doing over 100 damage in one round. Glee followed up with 50+ damage and they were looking good. It still got a bit hairy for them. In one sequence Glee was knocked unconscious and Lela went over and healed him, the next moment Lela was knocked unconscious and then Glee had to pour a potion in her mouth to bring her back. It was that sort of battle. With the hydra finally defeated Romulus took the Ring of Fire Resistance from Lela and plunged into the fire after the treasures. While he was running around and grabbing the loot several of the hydra heads regenerated and went after the other two, wounding them and setting them running. With the armor and sword now in his possession Romulus grabbed the book from the altar and went after the remaining head. He decided to use the new longsword and was surprised when it shocked him, doing a couple points of damage to the evil half orc. They killed the head and fled down the passage and back to the surface. Several minutes later they heard an angry howl come from the room, seemingly the hydra piecing itself back together and being pissed off about it.
Since the Blade Barrier was never dispelled they had to circumvent that again, through a series of tumbling and Reflex saves the party once again made it through alive, much to the delight of Corwyn who was eagerly awaiting the return of Lela. They spent the night in the master bedroom and the next morning set out to leave the mountains, using the tunnels that they had taken in initially. The three of them have no Survival between them, and Corwyn had nothing to add, and had a rough time finding there way out of the region but eventually they made it. The battled some more winter wolves but otherwise it was an uneventful journey out of the mountains and into the woods on the outskirts of Bowerstone.
Considering that they were undermanned I though that the party fought well as a team. The hydra could have ended it all but they fought with guts and rolled well when they needed to. Glee and Romulus flashed some of the skill they developed working together for all those years and Lela is proving herself to be practically irreplaceable.