Hey, sorry this one is so tardy. I was overcome by pies and rhinovirii.
Anyway, far as I can recall from the last session, our stalwart band of adventurers was in town and parlaying like mad with every significant NPC we could get our hands on.
We'd finished up our talk with Pelltar, and moved on to speak to Almox the Druid at the wizard's suggestion that we ask him about the mysterious scroll we found at the bottom of the subterranian lake. Boy, was the Deacon's face red when it turned out that what we had on our hands was a clerical spell scroll with a couple of heal spells on it. The whole party just kind of assumed it was magical and handed it to Koode without thinking. (Which, is a bit of foreshadowing, now that I think about it. Read on.)
Yogund, our stalwart paladin, sought out the Baroness' servant (name unrecalled) to get him to take a letter to send back to Yogund's order, reporting our success in clearing the north road of raiders, the founding of a wayhouse devoted to the order's patron diety Palinthor (?), and including a small tithe as a sign of the paladin's bona fides. As they conversed, a bit of bigotry reared its ugly head, as the Baroness' man expressed his distaste at allowing elves and dwarves to patronize the under construction wayfarer's house. It was probably good that neither Liam the badass elf or the Deacon were there to hear it, allowing Yogund to be a bit diplomatic in changing the subject.
So all of our meeting and conferring done, we all headed back to the Inn of the West Wind to see if we could work a deal with Talen Zin about joining our group for an expedition back to the "Stonehell" place he'd mentioned. As we were talking the subject of the book with the map and note laden flyleaf, that our mage Koode was being bizarrely coy about, came up. After numerous tries to get him to let us see it, we finally let our frustration get the better of us. Liam stormed off to search his room at the inn, and the Deacon, with a genuine regret at having his hand forced like this, cast Hold Person on Koode, and proceeded to pat him down as the mage stood immobilized. After pulling the book free from his robes, the Deacon, feeling sorry for him, ordered a drink and left it clenched in the hapless mage's hand, but was distracted from releasing him by the arrival of the talkative Talen Zin, who took a while before he realized Koode was immobile.
Once the mage was released from his magical immobility and chairs were pulled up to the table, we looked over the maps on the flyleaf, determining that a possible way into the fabled labyrinth might be found in a vertical shaft leading down from the small cell behind the carved demon face that Talen Zin had hidden behind for so long. (Although we learned, much to are distaste, that he'd been using it as a privy for all those months. We hoped the notes on the map indicating a huge garden of fungus meant it wouldn't be so bad climbing down there...)
So we set about negotiating with the wizard about joining us. He drove a hard bargain, and eventually the deal settled out at Talen getting a full share of any gold we found, and a specific magic item, a magical figurine of an elephant, I think, that was fabled to be down there. Otherwise, he'd abide by our more free style, "you get it if you can use it" system of divvying up magic items.
As we settled up on the magics, lo and behold Pelltar's primary apprentice Philben showed up with the faintly glowing sword we'd discovered on the person of the orc leader. He said his investigations had turned up no discernable enchantment, but there was some kind of magic there, enough to make the sword glow, and maybe to add a small bonus (like +1) to it. We decided to give it to Liam, since he needed any advantage he could get.
With negotiations settled and whatnot we then went to the merchants row, and talked to them about setting out for the orc lair to retrieve their goods. With notice given that we'd set out on the morrow, they busied themselves arranging for wagons and guards, while the party shopped for any last minute supplies. Liam inquired at the carpenter about getting a vanity arm, and was informed that work of that caliber was best sought out in Bridgefair, whilst the Deacon, inspired by watching the carpenters work on the wayhouse, commissioned the purchase of a hand drill. (Actually, this was inspired by a blog post I read, I'm not sure where, who had the idea of bringing a hand drill along on a dungeon delve. Why just listen at doors when you can quietly bore a hole and look through as well. Just hope there's no ooze on the other side, I guess.) Anyway, that was going to take a few weeks to fill, so the Deacon left a down payment and went on his way.
The next morning, three wagons, a small train of mules, six hired guards, and a doughty band of adventurers set out for the orc raider's dungeon in the mountains. We made good time through the day, and soon found ourselves camping in the copse of trees on the near side of the bridge across the Resten river, confident that no orcs would pop out to waylay us. We split into watches. I don't recall who all was on what watch, save that Koode and the Deacon shared a watch, and the cleric got the sense that the mage still bore something of a grudge about the Hold Person. Well, I said I was sorry, and if Mister Dood wants to be that way then I hope he never needs a busted leg or a bleeding wound set straight, is all I'm sayin'.
Uncomfortable as the second watch was, the third watch, which I think was maybe Yogund and Strang, one of our hirelings, was downright nasty, as a bunch of giant spiders dropped down from the trees and attacked. Yogund ordered the spearman to wake the rest of the group up, as he and a couple of the guards the merchants hired did battle with the monstrous arachnids. The battle was short and furious (so furious I'm not remembering the specifics too clearly) and ended with the spiders dead, and one of the six guards grievously poisoned by the creatures' bite. Liam desperately tried to suck out the poison, but to no avail as we watched it spread down the poor feller's arm. Without any other option, we chopped the arm off, and through an application of Cure Light Wounds saved his life, but at the cost of leaving him half crippled. The Deacon felt so bad about it he tucked some platinum Sovereigns in the guard's pouch for his family.
Shaken, the party set out for the mountain cave that was our desination, loading the stricken guard on one of the empty wagons since he was unable to walk. When we got there, we were in for another unpleasant surprise. Approaching the cave, we found the remains of a huge bonfire, stacked with charred remains of dead orcs. We'd been away for about a week, and somebody had been by.
Leaving the merchants and their guards waiting at the cave mouth, the party decided to search the premises, in case there were threats lurking about inside. We found blood trails from dragged bodies inside, and Liam was able to do a little tracking, revealing booted and bare feet of various sizes, which suggested to us that orcs and maybe goblins had burned the bodies. Our working hypothesis was that since Talen Zin's illusion/ventriloquism ruse had been the center of an orcish cult, other members had either come to join or returned from a looting trip and had come upon our handiwork.
As we searched deeper into the dungeon, it seemed like our guess was logical. The copper coins we'd left behind were gone, but the dead wolves and the bodies of the prisoners on the second level were untouched. The biggest misfortune, however, was that over half of the boxes and packages in the storage room, the very goods we'd mounted this expedition to retrieve, had been made off with!
Needless to say, the merchants were very unhappy, but there was still some of the goods left, so we loaded up the wagons. (Or more properly, let the guards load up the wagons, while the party stood watch for trouble.) After spending the night on the mountainside, we sent the merchants on their way, promising to follow up if we dug up any better leads about the rest of the goods.
Freed from having to worry about the merchants and their guards, we made our way into the depths to the stone face where Talen Zin had spent his long imprisonment. Securing a grappling hook and line to the edge of the hole, we climbed down into the depths.
As predicted by the map, we indeed found a garden of bizarre fungus, slightly glowing until a lantern was lowered down the shaft. We wound our way through the cavern, until we found worked stone, and proceeded to explore the area shown on the map.
As we proceeded down a hallway, we chanced across a short hall, 10' x 20', which ended in a dead end with a strange glyph inscribed on the wall. One of the party, either Klint (which tonight was in henchman mode controlled by Koode's player) or Liam, headed down the hall, and found themselves dropped into a concealed 10' pit. After a rope had been lowered and the trap victim pulled out, Klint decided to investigate the symbol, and climbed across dragging the rope behind him.
Before anyone could stop him, Klint reached up and touched the symbol, and vanished into thin air. After the shock had subsided, the rest of the party climbed or leaped across the pit and soon we were all clustered around the glyph. We were faced with two possibilities, either Klint was disintigrated on the spot, or teleported to some unknown location. After conferring, Yogund and Liam shrugged at each other, and also touched the symbol, vanishing as well. Then the Deacon took his chance, touching the glyph and vanishing. Following his lead, Melchoir and Strang touched it as well, disappearing and leaving Koode and Talen Zin standing there, both proclaiming their unwillingness to touch the symbol.
And that's where it ended, at least for Koode and Talen. More stuff happened, although whether it was further adventures or a TPK and character generation I'll leave for this week's session to answer. (BTW, the Deacon still had the book with the map in it, so it went/went up with him.)
Have fun in Stonehell, fellas.