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The 15th full game session. Dean (Thic Duc), Mary (Kriselle), Matt (Barron), Mariel (Leah), and Larry (Michael) entered.
As we left the party, Thic Duc had been killed by a large green creature. Normally death is a temporary condition for a party that has kept their insurance payments in order. However, the troll had bitten Thic Duc's head off and swallowed it. This presented a problem for the local clerics, who need an intact body to raise from the dead. With Michael and Kriselle recovered from their food poisoning, the (almost) complete party gathered to discuss their options for reviving Thic Duc.
The first and most obvious option: retrieve the head. The party rejected this as being too difficult, since it would require them to kill the troll without one of their strongest members. Resurrection would require a trip to the City of Greyhawk, as no priests were available who could cast it. The party discarded this option, as they did not wish to wait. Reincarnation, however, was available (LeDurt the druid and his reincarnated party members) and did not require an intact body.
Other options were also discussed, such as attempting Raise Dead on Thic Duc's body without the head and then luring the head with food so it would gradually eat its way out of the troll. Or, alternatively, using Animate Dead (duration: permanent) to turn the monk's body into a slowly rotting companion, and then perhaps stitching some other head they found in the dungeon on top. (DM suggestions that they consider seeking the Head of Vecna were ignored).
With their options laid out and a representative of the Adventure Capitalists on site to offer advice, the party chose to contribute 500gp for a Speak with the Dead spell to discern what Thic Duc would have wanted. The local priests washed and cleaned his body, then covered it with henna designs, and arranged themselves around the headless body. The leader explained how it would work: "You will have 1 minute to ask two questions and hear the answers. First, when I tell you, you will ask your first question. Then, my acolyte Poryphius will press down on the body's abdomen, compressing its lungs and expelling air through the severed vocal cords, which will form something hopefully close to speech. We will continue the bellows operation until the minute has passed and the answers are revealed. Now, ask your question.. and PUSH!"
Thus interrogated, Thic Duc's spirit told the party to trust in Pholtus and allow things to happen naturally. They took this to mean druidic reincarnation, and inquired whether LeDurt would be willing to conduct the spell, and whether the Adventure Capitalists would cover the cost. Both answers were affirmative, after some negotiation on danger pay, but the party was still uncertain as to exactly what would come back from the reincarnation process and whether they could manage to influence the results in a positive way. After much discussion, they chose to perform the reincarnation ritual next to the mysterious glowing wall in the petting zoo that would occasionally produce mysterious (and slightly odd) monsters.
What they got, after an hour or so of waiting, was a glowing amulet. When rubbed, a column of mist appeared, and gradually gained a humanoid form, albeit with very plain features and a little mist remaining. The strange new creature appeared to gradually regain awareness and knowledge of his presumed past life as Thic Duc, though he also appeared to have some belief in his own personal divinity. A brief interrogation satisfied the others that this was as close to the original Thic Duc as they were going to get, and they returned (aggressively, in Barron's case) Thic Duc's clothes and belongings.
With most of the group recovered from the bout of food poisoning, they gathered once more at the entrance to the bizarre party. It was time to meet the guests, recover the head from the troll if possible, deal with the troll itself... and with whatever happened at the party.
The butler (now named "Stitches") led the party to the banquet hall by the scenic route, passing the door to room 2B on the way. As the party passed, the door creaked open a crack as if something small was trying to escape, but due to poor lighting conditions in the dungeon, it was not immediately clear what was trying to open the door. The motion was enough to attract Kriselle's attention, however, and the party's denials of anything at all interesting being behind that door drew her interest. Kriselle and Michael (but mostly Kriselle) interrogated Barron and Leah about what exactly was in room 2B.
Eventually, Leah spilled the beans: "Bugbear babies."
Stitches led the party forward, briefly stopping to comment on the thousands of mouse feet running in circles around the swill pit, and to wave in the direction of the freeze with it's ice block. Finally, the party approached the entrance to the hall. The guards outside the doors had changed into ogre-sized tuxedos, though perhaps they had not originally been intended for ogres judging by the fit. Barron produced his invitation and had himself announced by Stitches as "Mr Crackers, Lord of Chaos." Thic Duc was announced as "The One True God". Those choosing to enter without invitations were assigned the duty of keeping water glasses full..
The banquet hall was covered with party decorations, including a massive banner reading "Welcome fiends!" The two co-leaders were perched precariously on their very, very high chairs at either end of the main table, surrounded by smaller tables packed with ogres, goblins, orcs, and bugbears. Tables were covered with empty plates, water glasses, the good silverware (perhaps a bit battered), with purple stink globe centerpieces and writhing strangleweed bases, even a large fountain with some kind of bizarre antigravity water. The serving tables had sectioned carrion crawler that the party felt unreasonably proud of, plus bubbling cauldrons of mystery stew, and whole flocks of roast seagull and other fowl dishes. A large The whole room was almost silent, though -- nervous sips of water, clinking of silverware, scooting of chairs, and only a little furious whispering about when would the rest of the guests arrive? Everyone was afraid to start without their guests.
It took almost an hour, with all the monsters waiting on their best behavior and a minimum of food fights and murder, for the rest of the guests to arrive. They announced themselves with a resounding crash on the door -- BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! -- followed by the doors themselves flying to the far end of the room. Following the doors, a devilishly-handsome man with horns, hooves, and a tail strode into the room, followed by three even more obvious demons with leathery bat wings, flaming swords, and vicious whips. As Stitches began to intone, "Asmodeus, lord of the 9th hell", and the demon himself shouted "Who DARES summon me?", the wizard Mudstone leaped up, gesturing wildly, and shouted "Let the dead arise!"
Immediately, every single piece of roast poultry took flight, circling around the room in utter chaos, knocking over cups and getting in everyone's hair. (Mr. Crackers was heard to cackle). Orcs and goblins threw plates at each other. Ogres and bugbears threw tables. And after a few shocked seconds of this, the demon could no longer resist -- and burst out laughing, and pointed at the center of the huge table, where a huge pillar of flame immediately erupted. His minions began doing the same to the other tables, filling the banquet hall with smoke. Barron flipped over a table to add to the chaos, and the other creatures soon began doing the same.
In the middle of all the insanity, Kriselle and Michael had approached the block of ice at the western wall of the room. It was resting on a wooden trapdoor of some kind, with a lever that was stuck inside the ice. Before the guests had arrived, they had managed to peak under the cover on top of the ice block. Within was a large ceratosaur, frozen in mid-pose, clearly completely intact. And the massive flames erupting from the tables was melting the ice!
Thinking quickly, the party used several still-burning tables to form a makeshift barricade around the melting cube. Michael started kicking at the lever, hoping he could release the trapdoor and drop the cube into whatever was below. Kriselle began hacking at the giant lizard, trying to get through the ice before the dinosaur could escape and attack them. As the ice continued to melt, the dinosaur began to wake up, and seeing Kriselle hacking at the ice surrounding its head, the creature began trying to break itself out. Thic Duc urged her to retreat and engage the creature from range, as the rest of the party was preparing to do, but she refused and stood her ground. The two titans of martial power, lizard and human, chipped and cracked the ice from either side. The fires continued to burn, with all the other creatures running around like maddened forest animals fleeing a fire.
Finally, Kriselle struck a blow that penetrated the ice and wounded the ceratosaur. Though her sword tasted its blood, the dinosaur saw the hole in the ice and struck at it fiercely, enlarging the hole and sending cracks radiating outwards through the ice. It was clear the ice would no longer present a significant obstacle soon. Indeed, with it's next blow, the creature's head and neck emerged through the hole... it's other limbs tearing at the ice, claws ripping chunks free and pulling the reptilian body forth. As it struggled to reach its tormentor, the rest of the party readied their missile weapons, and Kriselle saw her opportunity... striking a massive two handed blow with her bastard sword (natural 20), and embedding her sword deeply into the creature's neck while it finally freed itself from the ice.
Roaring in fury, and finally free to strike, the ceratosaur's claws grabbed hold of Kriselle, lifting her towards it's maw. Relishing the delicious taste of flesh, the creature rent her armor and drove its teeth into her body, leaving deep wounds, before shaking her viciously and dropping her to the floor unconscious. The panic in the room among the other monsters doubled as they saw the creature chomping on its meal, and they ran in even larger, faster circles. The party took a few rounds of missile fire, trying to keep their distance, but luck was not with them; aside from Kriselle's grievous blow that opened the battle, they managed to do little damage. They did, however, stay ahead of the scaled beast while dragging Kriselle's body with them.
At the entryway, the party paused to consider the possibility of closing the doors and trapping the dinosaur inside the banquet hall, but the doors had been kicked open and lay against the far wall nearly 50 feet away and looking rather worse for wear. The dino showed no interest in chasing the other creatures who continued to panic; it wanted those who had hurt it, especially the one whose sword remained in its neck. There were no alternatives; it was time for plan T.
The party continued to flee, desperately hoping to stay ahead of the creature. Mostly they were successful, though occasionally the monster would catch one of the party for long enough to exchange a few ineffectual swipes with its front claws. The party fled south along the map, seeking the entrance to the dungeon where they could escape, and possibly... just possibly... something else.
Finally the group reached the intersection near the door to the troll's room. Thic Duc hid just past the door, while the rest of the party split up, finding good positions to fire with missile weapons. Kriselle's body was dragged further south, still in sight down the corridor to the pursuing dinosaur. Barron moved west, seeking to circle around and attack from behind. Leah and Michael remained with Kriselle's body, guarding it, with Leah ready to engage in missile file. As the dinosaur approached, Thic Duc judged the moment was right... and quickly knocked on the troll's door, then threw it wide open in the dinosaur's face!
The troll was not pleased to find a dinosaur at his door, and stepped out into the corridor to take care of business. The dinosaur would just as soon have run right by, but the troll filled the corridor and his long, dirty claws were tearing through even a dinosaur's hide. The ceratosaur could not get past the troll, and the only acceptable alternative after that horrible banquet was to snack on the troll and finish using Kriselle as a chew toy. The two huge creatures struck blow after blow, but the limbs that had torn party members limb from limb so easily failed to get purchase. The troll had trouble penetrating the dinosaur's scales, and the dinosaur's tiny forearms simply didn't have the strength to lift the troll into its' vast maw. Both were reducing to clawing at each other, doing little damage, but slowly wearing each other down. Of course, in such a contest the creature that regenerates has a distinctly unfair advantage...
The troll barely noticed the party taking shots at its back with their bows. It didn't turn around even when Thic Duc accidentally shot Leah right in the gut, immediately apologizing profusely and vehemently denying that it was done as revenge for spilling the bugbear baby beans.
Staggering on its feet, the troll finally struck the ceratosaur with a forceful blow, landing a claw deep in the existing neck wound from which Kriselle's bastard sword still hung. Seemingly seized by an idea, the troll planted both huge hands on the hilt and ripped the sword free, completing the beheading which Kriselle's initial blow had begun. The dinosaur crashed to the earth. The troll's wounds were already beginning to close as the party rushed in, hacking at the foul green beast, seeking to bring it down while it was still weak from the battle.
Their blades soon rendered the troll into a horrible pile of twitching green goo... but it kept twitching, the wounds closing and the individual pieces crawling towards each other. The party frantically kept attacking, trying to keep the pieces from reforming, while Thic Duc retrieved a few flasks of lantern oil. Barron and Leah kept trying extract the monk's previous head from the stomach of the beast, with directions from Michael (occupied preventing the creature from reforming itself) as to where the head would likely be in the body. After a few minutes of this, Leah had a moment of inspiration, remembering the killing blow that felled the insectoid horror. Calling on all the combat techniques of her treetop masters, she leaped into the air, reversing her sword, and slammed her sword into the troll's stomach, putting her full body weight behind the blow... and neatly spearing Thic Duc's head on her blade. For a moment, Leah lifted her sword, with the head still attached, above her head, doing a victory dance and screaming "I got it! I got it!" Then it dawned on her that the head was supposed to be recovered intact... (She rolled a natural 1).
And on that note, we fade to black... for now.
To be continued...