The party stood in the aftermath of the just-ended battle, covered in blood and open wounds, down on spells and hit points. They considered the three available exits – up the stairway where Ark had encountered the green slime trap, through the ogre’s lair, where Ark had witnessed a black-cloaked human guard retreating, or down the secret passage to the crypt. As they considered, they heard the sound of a distant explosion, and tongues of flame lept from the secret door leading to the crypt – the guards had sealed that exit with fire. Worried about noises from above, Blars cast an augury spell, asking if woe or weal were to be found if the party proceeded upward. The answer: woe. With near-certain woe above, the party chose to head through the ogre’s lair.
The party headed quickly into the ogre’s lair. While Schlomo and Shecky piled the remnants of the ogre’s bedding in the doorway behind them, recreating the trap they’d used successfully last time, Gabrial & Valen checked out the secret passage leading to the second stairway and the deeper dungeon. Valen and Gabriel heard the sounds of arguing from above, heavy objects being dragged, and a fire being started at the top of the stairs. Ark headed back to the main room to scout, and saw Jon Straw and 2 other Hommlet Guards racing down the stairs, running from something. Ark retreated into the ogre’s lair. When Jon and his companions entered the room adjacent to the ogre’s lair, Shecky, Schlomo and Blars let loose with missile weapons and ranged spells, followed by setting the fire trap alight. Blars cast obscuring mist to prevent Straw from firing into the room, blocking any visibility still left after the fire. From the far side of the Mist, the guards’ screaming was cut short by the sound of weapons clashing. With the fire and mist blocking their view, the party could not tell what was going on.
Ark joined Gabriel and Valen in the secret room. The rest of the party joined and debated their next move. As they argued, a rattling began at the door to the deeper dungeon, the secret panel slid open and a black-cloaked human guard poked his head in. He was struck by Gabriel and Ark, and retreated into the hallway. Through the small portal, the party saw a group of humans and bugbears. With the portal so small, the two parties found themselves in a stand-off.
Valen left the party to the stand-off to investigate the remains of the Jon Straw trap. Ark followed. Outside the ogre’s lair door, they found the remnants of two charred bodies, and a third, Jon Straw’s, sprawled in the hallway. A single black-cloaked human guard stood watch – he was quickly dispatched by Ark and Valen, who looted Straw’s corpse, finding another key matching Lt. Paul’s on a chain around his neck, and Straw’s magnificent composite battlebow.
As they returned to the rest of the party, the stand-off shifted. In ranks, the guards in the deeper dungeon hallway began an orderly retreat. Worried they’d return in greater numbers, the party pursued, engaging them in the hallway. Several of the human guards ran, and the party was tied up by a bugbear and several orcs who were eventually dispatched. Knowing it was essential to make decisions quickly now, lest they be caught on-heels by a larger force, the party decided to push forward once again into the dungeon. Moving as quickly and quietly as they were able, they pushed toward what the Gnoll captain had described as “the pond,” dispatching two more guards along the way.
The party reached the pond at the end of a long, downward-sloping corridor. It was a huge room, filled with a deep pool with a 5-foot lip running around it. As Ark stood sentry in the hallway, watching for pursuing black-cloaks, Blars and Valen began to search for hidden doors. As Blars moved to the middle of the south wall, a giant crayfish emerged from the pond and attacked, pulling him (in full scale mail armor) into the pond. The rest of the party rushed to his aid, firing missile weapons and spells into the pool. As Blars tried to shed his armor to prevent drowning, Valen and Ark (and eventually Schlomo) left into the pool to fight the beast. A long, loud battle ensued, during which time Blars nearly drowned, the party discharged the bulk of its spells, and half the party’s weapons and armor were dropped into the inky pool. Finally, though, the crayfish was destroyed.
The party pulled its gear out the water, and Valen used his swimming skill to explore the pool. Valen found a submerged tunnel, and he and Ark explored it, finding a small, dark air-filled cave and a sandy beach on the other end. As they returned to the rest of the party to deliver the news, the party heard the approach of armor-clad footsteps in the hallway. In no position to stand and fight, the party stripped their armor, tied themselves and their gear together, and, with Valen and Ark leading the way, swam to the secluded cave. Cut off from the rest of the dungeon, exhausted from battle, the party healed and slept for a full eight hours.
Upon waking, refreshed and renewed, the party debated strategy. With the lockboxes full of gold and the key from around Jon Straw’s neck, they had proof that Lt. Paul and his men had been disguising themselves as bandits and terrorizing merchants headed through the Hommlet crossroads. However, there was clearly something much larger going on in these dungeons below the old moathouse, something probably connected to the ancient Temple. It was very clear that Lt. Paul’s men were not connected to the black-cloaks – if the interrogations of the guards and the gnolls had only hinted at that lack of connection, Jon Straw’s death at black-cloaked hands confirmed it. If the group left then (assuming that whatever happened in the previous eight hours while they rested allowed they’d still be able to get out), who knew what would happen in these dungeons? The party decided to head toward the area where, according to the gnoll captain, there was a way out of the dungeon and, again according to the gnoll, the chambers of the Master. Whether they left or faced the master would be determined by what they found there.
Emerging from the pond, the party found many footprints in the damp, bload-soaked room, indicating the room had been searched. But no guards were present. Proceeding as quietly as possible, they headed down the corridors, following the gnoll’s map. After a half hour or so, they arrived at a juncture. In one direction was clearly moving air – a way out of the dungeon. In the other direction a door leading, according to the gnoll, to the master’s chambers.
After listening carefully at the door, Valen heard low voices and the shifting of an armored body. After a brief discussion, the party decided to push into the room. They found a long hallway, populated by three human guards. Two rushed forward to face the party, the third fled. The first two were quickly cut down and the party pursued the third into a larger room with four more guards, who fought fiercely, blocking the party from pushing into the next room. Moments later, six more guards entered the room – two bugbears and four humans. At 10 to 6, he odds turned against the party. Gabriel and Schlomo waded into the middle of the fray, attracting the attention of the bigger guards, while Blars held back, fighting with a human guard. Shecky found a corner from which to lob spells, while Valen hung back in the doorway, firing into the fray. The party dropped a pair of human guards, and the fight seemed to be turning, when three more humans in plate mail strode into the room. One, a tall blond human in plate mail with a gleaming longsword and shield, strode directly into the room to engage Gabriel – when he got near, the party could see that it was the blond shopkeeper from Hommlet, Gremag. As Gremag approached Gabriel, the other figure, in plate mail, carrying a glowing, ironshod quarterstaff, stopped in the doorway and uttered a command spell, ordering Gabriel to drop his weapon. Gabriel managed to fight the spell, but was shaken. Gremag then unleashed a devastating attack against Gabriel. A third sergeant joined the main fray.
As Gabriel fought Gremag and Schlomo and Ark plowed through the other guards, Valen and Shecky focused their fire (spells and arrows) on the other figure (Lareth) and Blars did his best to keep Gabriel alive with spells. As the remaining guards fell, Ark executed a flanking maneuver on Gremag, giving both him and the badly wounded Gabriel a slight advantage. As soon as he did so, however, Lareth cast “hold person” on Gabriel, who failed his save and went limp. Gremag took advantage of his helplessness by running him through with his longsword, sending him unconscious and bleeding to the ground. Shecky and Schlomo then rushed Lareth, while Ark and Valen concentrated on Gremag. While Valen peppered Gremag with arrows, Gremag wounded Ark deeply. Lareth smashed at Shecky several times with his magical staff, causing a great deal of damage despite frequent misses. Schlomo charged in to do massive damage to Lareth, who responded by casting, mid-battle, a spell which caused Schlomo to go immediately blind. Blars healed Gabriel, who climbed back to his feet to face Gremag again. With the damage already done to him by Ark, Schecky and Valen, the party managed to take down Gremag. Lareth, panicked, began casting another spell. Schlomo lashed out blindly to disrupt the spell and hit, bringing the evil cleric down before the spell left his lips.
Bloodied, battered and partially blind, the party quickly searched the bodies and the adjoining barracks. Ark took Lareth’s Staff of Striking, Schlomo or Gabriel (?) took Gremag’s magical longsword. As Schlomo’s sight slowly returned, Schlomo and Gabriel also stripped Gremag and Lareth of their fine suits of half-plate, taking them for themselves. In Lareth’s chambers, the party found an armoire containing a gem-encrusted necklace, a host of fine silver serving pieces, and a writing desk (as yet unexplored). Standing in the chambers of the evil cleric, Blars healed the party to the best of his ability, so that they might survive to escape the dungeon.