The 14th full game session. Dean (Thic Duc), Matt (Barron), and Mariel (Leah) entered. Only Barron and Leah left alive.
As we left the party, they were about to return to the dungeon seeking to complete their map of the second level. Since a mysterious case of food poisoning had left Kriselle, Michael, and Kevin feeling less than adventurous, they were also seeking to minimize the risk they took without everyone at full strength and intellectual capacity. The weaker (of stomach, anyway) party members gathered around the pit leading to the second level, and those more sprightly descended within.
After another course of hors d'oeuvres from the butler (Pyro enjoyed his), the party chose to begin by returning to the centerpiece room, which they had previously visited while carrying a cart of garbage to the swill pit. Those inside had told them to take the cart to the pit and then return to help construct table centerpieces from a collection of strangely mobile foliage and a series of purple globes.
As it turned out, disturbing the weeds would occasionally produce a strangling effect, and handling the purple globes without the utmost in delicate care would cause them to burst and splatter everyone within the room with noxious purple gunk. Luckily, Thic Duc had come prepared, and his apron took the majority of the explosion. Barron, Leah, and Pyro were nauseated. Leah was briefly strangled, but Barron cut her free. With only a few mishaps after they were made aware of the risks, the party successfully arranged the centerpieces.
As the time of the party approached and the hosts grew ever more frantic and desperate, the party chose to volunteer their services to the chef in preparing the main course. Barron and Leah were each handed a dish to sample, and declared it "almost ready, but it needs a bit more rotted meat"; Barron volunteered to provide the oldest of his rather fragrant steaks as a contribution to the dish, forgetting to mention that it was soaked in poison. Thic Duc was assigned to washing dishes, which he did with deft skill. Pyro gleefully accepted samples of everything and approved..
The chef then assigned the group to butcher the main course of the dinner party. They were given large cleavers and sent to the butchering room (22) with an ogre to assist them and show them the way. Upon reaching the door, a horrid, many-legged skittering noise could be heard within. The party carefully lined up, with one party member on each side of the door and one directly in front of it. The ogre stepped forward to open the door...
Within was a creature from their nightmares. Many legs, far too many legs, and a long, segmented body that filled the 30'x30' room. The head of the creature was on the far side of the room, but as it caught sight of the party, it turned and moved in their direction -- yet the bulk of the creature was such that it filled the room and had to shift its own body out of the way to reach the door. This delayed the creature's attacks for several rounds, but the horrific visage of the insectoid horror was sufficient to prevent them from taking significant advantage. Even the ogre stumbled backwards in terror and disgust when the creature began to move towards him, crushing Barron up against the dungeon wall behind him.
As the head approached the doorway, the party began to recover and sought to strike the creature. However, with the ogre and Barron in front of the door (and Barron not very mobile), and only Thic Duc with a spear, and Leah reluctant to fire missile weapons into melee after many hard lessons, the tactical position was poor. When the creature sunk its mandibles deep into the ogre's arm, and the ogre's body succumbed to some sort of paralytic agent, the party decided to draw the creature out into the hallway so they could all attack at once.
Thic Duc retreated to draw the creature out, and the creature obligingly followed. Barron and the ogre shared a glance filled with soul-rending despair as the paralyzed monster was trampled by the insectoid horror that was meant to be dinner. The ogre could do nothing, and Barron drew his dagger and waved it ineffectively at the passing body segments. The thief was now trapped under an insectoid terror and a paralyzed ogre, and took a wound in the forehead from one of the creature's legs for his trouble.
Seeing that events were going down hill fast, Thic Duc stabbed at the creature with his spear, thrusting his weapon deep into the terrible, mandible-filled, slime-coated maw... and the creature promptly bit the head off of his spear, leaving the monk with a quarterstaff. Feeling that this was a good time to move to close quarters, Thic Duc dropped the staff and prepared to squish the giant bug with his bare hands and feet.
Frustrated by his inability to reach the insectoid terror that was keeping him pinned in entirely too close quarters to the ogre, Barron decided it was time for drastic action. He slit the paralyzed ogre's throat, killing a helpless creature who had offered him nothing but aid and protection (and perhaps a little too much personal contact). The ogre's blood poured out, coating Barron's face and clothes, the stink sinking deep into his soul. However, this did nothing to actually get him out from underneath the ogre's corpse, especially with a huge insect on top of them both.
Staring into the many-tentacled creature's ugly eyes, Thic Duc unleashed a flurry of punches and kicks that seemed to do little more than baffle the many-segmented menace. But Leah's patience was exhausted, and her friend was in danger of death by ogre-stench. She drew her short sword and attacked, opening a wound in the creature's carapace that leaked a white, oozing ichor. Seeing that half-measures would not be sufficient, Leah grasped her sword in both hands and leaped to the top of the creature, driving her blade into a gap between two of the body segments, and letting the full weight of her body drag the blade through the creature's shell. A flood of white ooze covered the ogre's corpse and Barron beneath it as the creature shuddered, twitched, and expired.
Barron was pulled out from underneath both creatures, and his honed criminal mind went straight to the important matter: "What are we going to tell the chef about his ogre?" Thic Duc answered wordlessly by grabbing a mandible and using it to mutilate the neck wound, disguising Barron's entirely too neat dagger slice. Barron took a moment to coat his dagger in the creature's ichor, leaving him with a poisoned dagger (1d4 applications, save versus poison or be paralyzed for 1d6 rounds).
At this point, Pyro was looking decidedly sick to his stomach (perhaps after licking too much ichor off Barron's face?), and Leah decided it would be for the best if he was returned to the dungeon entrance to recover. She escorted him to the dungeon entrance without incident, but on the way back, she was briefly pursued by a mobile pack of headless mice. Being headless and without sensory organs, the mice were not very adept trackers, and Leah was able to escape and make it back to the party.
After all of that excitement, the party briefly moved north and opened the door to room 23, which they noticed was cold to the touch. Within was a frozen chamber containing many large carcasses hanging on hooks from the ceiling, a large block of ice covered by a cloth of some some (and perhaps with something within or behind it; the party was not able to see any details clearly from the door). In front of the block of ice sat a large toad.
Barron threw a piece of poisoned meat to the toad and closed the door before seeing if the toad was at all interested. The party then returned to the chef to report their success and the availability of an ogre's worth of additional stew meat. The chef thanked them, fed them more nauseating concoctions to taste-test, and sent them on their way.
After reporting success to the chef, the party chose to head east, passing by a large set of double doors with two guards dressed in ceremonial ogrish regalia standing at attention outside. Barron tried to bluff his way inside ("I am Mr Crackers, lord of chaos, and I was not given an invitation to your party!", "I may be an ogre, but I'm not stupid; I have layers!") and failed.
Further north and east, the party was about to knock on a closed door when a voice from within called out to them, inviting them to enter. They did, with some caution, and the wizard Mudstone introduced himself. He explained about the party, the plan to invite fiends of all descriptions to come to a vast party and take on the dungeon-dwellers as minions and shock troops in a world-conquering reign of terror, and the tragic of his fellow wizard Mortykraken, now missing, who had been in charge of procuring a set of giant frog legs for the guests of honor.
Mudstone was also revealed to be the source of the headless hordes of mice roaming the dungeon at random. He had been placed in charge of making the hors d'oeuvres, and was using a golem servant to prepare the treats while disposing of the tiny little corpses by animating them and instructing them to throw themselves down the swill pit. Despite being headless, evidence suggests they did find the swill pit ... eventually.
Their curiousity aroused, the party traveled north to the messenger cave in search of the invitations. It turned out these invitations had been written out in very small print on rolls of paper attached to bats. The bats were then sent out to fly freely. At least some of the bats had returned with invitations removed, but the party was able to procure two invitations for themselves before their attempts disturbed the bats.
Deciding that the rapid pace of party prep was challenging their stamina, the party returned to the dungeon entrance. On the way, they ran into an orc carrying a massive tray of dirty dishes. Each accepted another hors d'oeuvre from the butler, but while the butler discouraged them from leaving the dungeon, they were able to stick their hands through the gap in the door towards Michael, who lowered himself down on a rope and grasped their hands to perform his healing magic. He was heard to mutter "What am I, a healing vending machine?" in a good-natured tone of voice.
Next, the party located the door to the large room (1) near the entrance of the dungeon level, and cautiously opened the door. Inside was chaos -- corpses of both goblins and orcs littered the room, lying among the shattered remains of chairs, papers, and a large, crude conference table. An examination of the papers revealed that the inhabitants of this room had been attempting to organize a party, and had failed.
From there, the party entered a long, narrow room from which sounds of construction work could be heard. Upon entering, it was obvious that a wall had been knocked down to make more space for workers within. The workers (ogres and goblins) were busily hammering long boards into somewhat largish chair with legs thirty feet long. As it turned out, the chair was intended for Wyperag, who had a secret plan to be the leader with the biggest, baddest, longest chair at the head of the party table when the guests arrived. After asking a few questions about how the chair would be transported to the dining area, and being sworn to secrecy about the project, the party gave up on explaining the geometric flaws in the plan and settled down to help hammer boards into place.
Before long, they found another room with similar elongated shape, similar workers (orcs and bugbears this time), and a similar chair with 30-foot legs. They were again sworn to secrecy and recruited to help finish the chair, but mentioned that the secret chair plans had been stolen, and that another group just across the hall was working on another chair just as big or maybe even bigger. The party ducked out of sight around the corner as a furious argument began.
Returning to the room labeled 3G (for "green back"), the party slowly opened the door, but failed to open it silently. Beyond the door, as before, they saw a large green-skinned creature in a loincloth speedo, hunched over something in the far corner of the room. Hearing the door open, it turned to look at the interruption, grumbling loudly, then stood slowly and turned towards the group, taking a few steps towards the door.
Seeing this, Barron backed away from the door rapidly, trying to stay out of reach. The green-skinned creature reached out with one long arm, trying to grab him, but missed. Thick Duck positioned himself southeast of the door, positioned to strike from behind if the creature left. Leah was just a short distance further south, out of reach but within bow range. Barron stabbed and Leah fired her bow, both wounding the creature, but the wounds closed before their eyes! The party debated whether to flee, but decided to stay and fight it out.
After the creature missed his grab at Barron, it lumbered out of the doorway and growled, sounding tired, irritated, and grumpy. Before the creature could react, Thic Duc struck with vicious force, his powerful fist striking the creature in one of its thin and spindly arms. With a rubbery thwack, Thic Duc felt something within the creature's arm nearly give, as if he had nearly snapped a bone. Roaring in pain, it turned on him, clawed green hands reaching out to seize the monk by both arms. Struggling in horror, but unable to break free, the monster lifted Thic Duc towards its rotting teeth. His friends could do little more than watch in terror as the monk's head disappeared into the horrible green mouth, and the monk's terrible screams as the monster chewed and tore and finally pulled the monk's head apart from his body.
With a disgusted grunting noise, the creature threw what remained of Thic Duc at his friends and slammed the door in their faces. It's his party and he can cry if he wants to.
Barron and Leah gathered up Thic Duc's body and fled, but before they could escape, they turned a corner and saw two goblins wielding huge meat cleavers -- just as the two goblins saw them. Screaming about a last-minute need for appetizers, the goblins charged! Barron and Leah made quick work of the two would-be butchers, however. As the conflict came to an end, the deep, sonorous sound of a gong announced the official beginning of the party...
Hearing the gong as they approached the entrance, the butler informed those party members still among the living that the party had begun, and their presence was required in the main hall immediately. The simple-minded creature refused to listen to their protests, finally reaching out with one hand and grabbing Leah by the neck of her tunic, lifting her helplessly into the air with Thic Duc's body still draped over her shoulder -- with one hand. With the other, it grabbed for Barron, whose dagger thunked into the thing's torso with an ineffective, almost wooden, sound.
With all three party members firmly in hand, the butler began to ponderously stomp towards the main hall. Leah struggled, kicking the creature in its expressionless face, but the blunt impact of her dainty half-elven feet had little effect. (A rare situation where stilletto heels might be more practical in a dungeon!)
Thic Duc could do little but dangle headlessly, yet he did so with gusto.
Barron, with his hands free, continued to stab at the creature. The wounds did not bleed, but neither did they seem to heal.
Orcs and goblins, ogres and bugbears, oh my! Packs of creatures ran past, arms filled with last-minute items!
Barron's knife and Leah's boot smash into the butler, leaving horrid slashes and scuff marks on its finery!
Step by slow and ponderous step the party unwillingly approaches the party!
A group of bugbears run by, 30-foot chair in hand, and apparently in several pieces...
Two ogres run past, carrying a silver platter between them, on which rests a pair of giant frog legs, and a pair of tiny little frog legs...
Seized by a sudden inspiration, Barron begins sawing with his dagger instead of stabbing with it, trying to disable the creature's arms. His desperate sawing slices the muscles and tendons of the creature's arm, and the thief tumbles to the dungeon floor amidst the chaos. With a firm grip on his dagger, he begans to saw at the arm holding Leah while the creature stares at him bemusedly, trying to move its other arm...
... and Barron succeeds, the creature's arm going limp as Leah and Thic Duc tumble to the floor!
Consumed by grief and terror, pursued by the mocking sounds of the gong from far below, Barron and Leah bore the headless, bloody body of Thic Duc out of the dungeon, past the workers repairing the petting zoo, through the halls of the Citadel Union, and finally, kicked open the doors of the dial-a-diety temple complex, and laid (most of) the monk down upon the altar...
(To be continued...)
Notes on bringing characters back from the dead, in general: Raise Dead requires that the body be complete, or only the parts present will be returned to life. As Thic Duc was decapitated, and the party retrieved his body without the head, casting Raise Dead on the body as it is now would be unpredictable at best. Retrieving the head before it is digested would presumably allow for success, though perhaps with scarring (think Deadpool without the mask). Resurrection is not so limited, assuming there is enough of the body present or details of the target known to be definitively and uniquely identified, but there may not be anyone capable of casting it within Castle Greyhawk. The city of Greyhawk itself would likely have a number of capable priests. Reincarnation, castable by either a druid or magic-user, does not require an intact corpse, and the party may recall an earlier encounter with a druid both willing and capable of casting a spell of such power... but if it is to be used, there is a time limit to be observed (measured in days).