Dean (Thic Duc), Matt (Lenny), Coby (Warin), Chris (Malag), and Norsk (Brian) are returning cast members.
As we left the party, they had made camp in the fortified temple at the top of Bone Hill. Amathar was still missing after taking a nap while under an invisibility spell. The party had left Thic Duc with the wagon to wait for Amathar, but after noon came and went with no sign of the mage, Thic Duc rejoined the group immediately following their battle with the bugbear shaman, drawn by the sounds of battle.
With Thic Duc now present, the party continued to explore after a brief rest. First they found quarters for a second shaman, which contained a strange chest covered in writing. Norsk checked for traps and found them by reading the writing on the chest too closely: it was a glyph of warding, and the explosion left everyone in the room a little scorched. They did at least find a little over 200gp in the chest.
Warin showed them the kitchen and pantry he had found while
running away from the shaman exploring; both of those rooms had been trashed, but the pantry was still in use by someone, or more likely, something. The only other door from the kitchen was strangely nailed shut. After several attempts to open it normally failed, Malag stepped up and ripped the door off both hinges and nails by main force, immediately after which the party was able to hear voices speaking in the bugbear tongue.
Beyond that door was a throne room of some kind, also thoroughly destroyed by the bugbears now inhabiting the place. The throne, once a gilt-inlaid, velvet-lined thing of beauty and power, was now ripped, torn, and born the marks of most of its gilt being removed crudely. Tapestries and paintings on the walls depicting battles between allied elves and men against bugbears had been heavily defaced. As Malag stepped through the doorway, holding the door in front of him as a shield, the voices stopped. The rest of the party carefully looked around the door, seeing only an empty room... until Warin noticed the young bugbear clinging in terror to the other side of the door Malag had ripped off its hinges.
When Malag shook the door, the bugbear fell off and landed on its ass, briefly stunned by seeing humans rather than its parents. Thic Duc went into his pack to offer rations, but Malag threw the door to the floor a few feet away and yelled "Boo!" The half-orc's countenance, bloody and dripping with the brains of another young bugbear already, terrified the poor creature, and it fled through a massive hole in the outer wall.
The room had another exit, a door on the far side, but examination proved it to also be nailed shut. Perhaps someone was trying to secure the entryways to the keep, since this room was clearly compromised by the presence of a large hole in the masonry likely created by a siege engine and beyond the abilities of the bugbears to repair?
The party spent time searching the room before continuing on. The throne proved to contain no hidden compartments, at least as far as a close examination could demonstrate. Malag searched for secret trapdoors in the dais by the practical, if disgusting, method of peeing on the floor and looking to see where the liquid drained. As it turned out there were no secret trapdoors and the liquid stank up the room instead. Oh well.
Finally bored with desecrating the throne room, the Band of Misfits tried the exit door. Malag stepped up to the door and tried to rip it free as he had done with the other nailed-shut door, but then stepped back and allowed Norsk to try it. Norsk succeeded. Clearly there were special tips involved in ripping doors off their hinges that only half-orcs know.
Behind this door was a room they had visited briefly before, but taken a different exit. It had a staircase leading upwards and another exit they had not tried yet. That door was magically locked, which the party determined by ripping it off its hinges without being able to open it. Eventually they settled on burning it down, which would enable them to explore the rest of the keep while the door burned. Efficient!
While they set that fire, Thic Duc returned to the shaman's quarters where a fire was still burning, and put it out by wielding his biological weapon. He found a chest with 8 blocks of incense, two of which glowed in his ultravision. On his way back to the party with his find, he stopped at the throne and examined it for hidden compartments or treasures. Finding none, he waved Malag over and asked the burly half-orc to smash the throne. Malag picked up the heavy wooden chair and smashed it full force against the wall next to the door. It shattered into a thousand pieces, and simultaneously opened a passage through the thin wall into the room beyond the wizard-locked door. (Natural 20 on a to-hit roll against the wall).
Beyond the locked door, they found what appeared to be a barracks. 6 beds with matching footlockers, 12 spears and 8 short bows. The bugbears, presumably, had trashed this room too at some point. After a desultory search the party proceeded up the stairs. They were faces with a series of doors in a short, L-shaped corridor. Starting with the door on the left, they found a lone bugbear keeping watch out of an arrow slit in the wall. He saw the party entering his room and shouted an alarm, dropping his bow in favor of a club. Malag quickly retreated, leaving the lone bugbear to Norsk and Lenny, who advanced on the creature with weapons drawn. Malag opened the first door to the right, and saw a bugbear nursery filled with bugbear babies in diapers and a single female caretaker. He snarled something threatening and slammed the door.
The party heard chanting from behind one of the doors ahead of them. Warin countered with a Bless spell.
Norsk threw himself at the bugbear by the window, but the bugbear nimbly sidestepped the attack and Norsk went flying through the arrow slit. Unfortunately, only his hand and arm could fit through the slit, so his head and shoulders hit the walls on either side. Ouch! He did manage to keep his grasp on his sword, though -- barely, thanks to Warin's blessing earlier. The bugbear tried to club him while he was stuck, but misjudged the height of the ceiling in the arrow slit and knocked himself to his knees straddling Norsk instead. Lenny advanced and backstabbed the bugbear to death.
Malag opened the next door, seeing another bugbear shaman and a human mage, both in the act of spellcasting. He charged the shaman, slicing the creature's belly open in a single blow. The shaman fell to the floor, bleeding to death, while the mage finished his spell... and Malag collapsed, snoring loudly. Further back, Lenny was caught by a wave of disorientation as he struggled to keep his eyes open. Finally, he too fell, ending up draped over Norsk. His last words were "But elves are immune to that spell..." (Since cleric/assassin is a multiclass combo usually limited to half-orcs, Lenny's mom may in fact have some explaining to do).
Norsk pushed Lenny off and stood up, rushing back into the corridor towards the remaining threats.
Thic Duc charged in after Malag, using his monk's speed to reach the mage as fast as monkly possible. He did not make it in time. Just as he landed on Malag's snoring form, hoping to wake the half-orc without delaying his attack on the mage, the wizard's spell finished. "You will pay for the death of my friend and minion!" the wizard cried as his spell flew. Thic Duc was already airborne with his spear aimed straight for the heart of the mysterious wizard as a firey explosion went off in the hallway.
Thic Duc was caught in mid-leap and unable to dodge. He took the full force of the blast and fell unconscious, burned and crispy. Malag was only just waking up, already starting to stand, and the explosion knocked him back down, but not quite out of the fight. Norsk had just made it back into the hallway when the explosion went off. He was alive, but his armor had burnt and melted.
Malag struggled to his feet, woken by Thic Duc's foot and the fireball, and hefted his sword. When the wizard bent down to try to bandage the shaman, Malag sliced open his head and ate his brain.
With the wizard lying dead on the floor, and the shaman dead next to him, the party gathered closely together and tended to each other's wounds. Once the bleeding had stopped, Malag had a sudden craving for even more brains, and remembered the bugbear nursery next to the wizard's bedroom. With slaughter on his mind he picked up his sword and went looking. The rest of the party followed, a certain moral queasiness warring with loyalty to their friend. Malag roared with fury as the bugbear babies flung their excrement through the slots in his helmet, striking his mouth and eyes perfectly. Their nurse was cut down with a single blow, after which Malag dropped his sword and tore the tiny creatures apart with his bare hands, staining his tusks with blood and brains.
... all save one, hidden away by Thic Duc, who expertly changed the little tyke's diaper, then slipped him into a leash and makeshift harness. (Natural 20 on dexterity check to change the diaper; experienced adventurers may note that Thic Duc did not suffer a non-proficiency penalty on this check!) The party, it seemed had acquired a new pet. Or perhaps this was merely a convenient source of fresh brains? Time would tell.
In any event, Malag's craving for brains subsided as he licked the interior skull of his last meal. The party mostly shrugged and resumed their exploration. It's a good thing we didn't have any paladins. Or really any good characters. Or Leah. Leah would be really pissed and probably drunk.
Events had distracted the group from searching the room with the shaman and wizard, so they resumed their search with the wizard's alchemical laboratory. The door turned out to be wizard-locked, but that wasn't going to stop them. Malag plied his mighty thews to the task and ripped a small hole in the door. Maybe Thic Duc could fit through if he dieted?
Lenny wasn't willing to wait. As the only one who spoke bugbear, he knelt down next to the creature, speaking in its own tongue. The words were simple. "Candy? You know candy? You like candy? The wizard has candy in his lab! Go through the hole and get the candy!" Norsk got into it by reaching into his pouch as if to pull out candy and tossing it into the room.
On the moral relativity scale, I suppose tricking a toddler into exploring a dangerous and magical environment with unknown threats does in fact rank below slaughtering poo-throwing infants and eating their brains, but it's a close call. Luckily, the toddler was too smart to fall for that one. "Wizard there! No allowed! No disturb wizard!"
Warin thought it over and made an appeal to his Mysterious Voice: "Oh great and wise and benevol-bitchslap!-maleficent diety to whom I owe my loyalty and veneration, grant me the power to pass through this door!" For once the Mysterious Voice responded without words, providing Warin with a levitating Spiritual Hammer that would neatly fit through the hole in the door and allow the party to manipulate objects or locking mechanisms beyond, or even, with practice and care, allow them to extract items back out through the hole in the door.
Or you could just use the hammer to smash the door repeatedly, summoning it back to your hand each time like Thor. That works too, I guess. But you didn't need a spell for that. Oh, nevermind... that natural 20 on the last roll smashing the door to smitherines was ok too.
After staring at the wall of alchemical gear and over 40 mysterious vials of liquid, the party chose to select a few at random and carry them out rather than trying to test them to determine their contents. Apparently they will be tested later... in some sort of life-and-death emergency situation where random and unpredictable results could not possibly make things any worse. They didn't even wave them under Thic Duc's extraplanar gaze to see if any of them radiated magic.
They did remember to search the bodies of the wizard and shaman, claiming the shaman's armor, and the wizard's cloak and wand. Norsk took the wizard's dagger as a keepsake and memoir, and Warin took the shaman's morning star and hammer.
As the party finished dividing the loot, twilight fell outside the keep...
To be continued...
For reference: 200 cp = 20 sp = 2 ep = 1 gp = 1/5 pp
|Player||Character||Race||Class||Level||Experience Total||Next Level||Funds|
|Dean||Thic Duc||Human (mostly)||Monk||5th||29,088xp||47,500xp||$3,191|
|Matt||Barron||Hobgoblin (by polymorph)||Thief / Magic-User||5th/3rd||6,785xp||10,000xp||$5,664|
|Matt||Lenny||Elf||Cleric / Assassin||1st||879xp||1500xp/1500xp||$98|