After we reluctantly agree to play guard duty for our latest ally, the dodgy necromancer Dulgahar, he goes down to his mysterious underground lair and we explore this strange dilapidated building.
What can it be about this place that attracts so much interest? The rooms are dusty and empty — and then the unstable ceiling falls on top of poor Saffir. She’s unconscious, so Calwyn and Alix stay with her while Intan and I retreat to watch the wall from one of the storerooms. I spot a creature in the forest, watching. I don’t see anyone again, but I know they are there.
Later, Dulgahar returns and demands we patrol the perimeter, outside, where it has been raining steadily all day. And it is still raining. On my watch, with Calwyn, I hear signs of their presence, but they do not attack.
Dulgahar shows up in the morning with three zombies in tow. I cannot suppress a shudder. Of his two bugbears and ogre there is no sign and he says they’ve run off. He now wants us to commit ourselves to nine days of this cursed guard duty while he raises an army of undead. (Oh the horror!) He is convinced the three-fanged clan will attack tonight.
Calwyn comes up with the brilliant suggestion of doing a deal with the three-fangs — he suggests they be admitted to the compound in return for allowing Dulgahar to remain below, thereby acting as his guards. The necromancer loves the idea and grants us the challenge of bringing it about in return for a reward.
We’re in luck when I spot the goblin sentry asleep in a tree — fool — and we send him off with a message to Idressa, spokesperson for the three-fangs, saying that we wish to parlay. Or so we hope.
She doesn’t turn up until well after dark and has a large number of humanoids in tow. Initially she refuses to discuss terms, demanding rather to know whether we’ve cleared the compound and discovered the silver-runed objects she commissioned us to find. We retreat, still hoping we can convince her to negotiate with the necromancer, but it’s not looking promising.
And then Intan manages to reveal to Dulgahar that we were commissioned by Idressa to clear the compound and the necromancer is understandably wroth. He storms off underground, leaving us to face the massive force. It seems our double-dealing is about to have its repercussions, but somehow we keep talking to Idressa, blathering really, and something we say convinces her. She commands us to bring Dulgahar to her.
She does not need to ask twice. Right now, I’d rather be underground with Dulgahar than up here with all those humanoids. Besides, I’m insanely curious as to what’s at the bottom of those mysterious stairs. To safeguard our retreat I set my new alarm spell on the door. Doesn’t hurt to practise! It’s very late, though, nearly midnight.
At the bottom of the stairs, we encounter Dulgahar’s two wargs, chained up, but guarding the entrance to his lair most effectively. We have no choice but to fight. It’s tight and awkward, but I try to get in there to help Intan out, only to fall victim to a most wayward swing of his greataxe. The steel glints at it sails through the air and it all happens so very slowly…
Somehow he manages to pull his blow at the last second and it does not take my head off. I reflect how disconsolate I’ll be if I die at the hand of one of my own party. That critical hit (39 pts of damage before the reflex saving throw) was very close indeed.
We manage to pacify the necromancer, who agrees to talk to Idressa, and a couple of hours later they have reached an accord of sorts. However, Idressa still wants her artifacts, which Dulgahar claims not to have seen (not sure we believe him), and we agree to scour the catacombs for them. She takes one of our magical weapons and some gold as a stake and gives us three days, starting from the next dawn, to return.
By now it is very late indeed, and we sleep.
In the morning Dulgahar guides us through his underground corridors to the entrance to the catacombs. We descend via a rope to find a circular chamber with eight warded and barred doors. He disarms the ward on one of our choosing and leaves us to it.
The tunnels are round, only five feet in diameter, so we are forced to stoop. Almost immediately we encounter a gelatinous cube, which we defeat, although some of our weapons are destroyed or compromised. At least I get to try out my power attack feat on this remarkably easy-to-hit monstrosity.
We then spend the whole day exploring this interminable maze of underground corridors, which bend and twist back on themselves and each other. At one point we fight giant lobster things — and manage to harvest one for food. In another chamber we find a skeleton with a backpack, inside which is a mage scroll, much to Calwyn’s delight.
And then we reach the cavern of the owl-bears, two enormous creatures that are half owl, half bear. We have no choice but to fight them. Saffir goes down first, but Alix manages to get her up again while the battle still wages. Then Intan goes down… then me… then Alix, our cleric and healer.
When Alix goes down, one of the owl-bears is still standing, but Calwyn is still valiantly attacking it with magic missiles, while Saffir is patching up Intan. It’s all looking extremely dire, but that’s when Alix’s Ring of Refreshment kicks in (automatic 10 HPs back once unconscious). She’s back up and attacking the remaining owl-bear with Calwyn.
Meanwhile, I’m just about dead. And then the second owl-bear goes down and they take stock. With literally seconds to spare, Alix is able to stop my bleeding and bring me back to consciousness.
We overnight in one of the caverns, and then continue exploring these tedious, gloomy, cramped tunnels. When we’ve done all we can, we return to the first chamber with the warded doors, but the wards are beyond us. We decide to seek the necromancer’s aid, so Saffir and I climb up into his domain.
There we find more horrors — we should have expected them, I suppose. In a massive underground chamber that is something like a colosseum, we find creatures chained to walls and evidence of torture. We do not linger, though, and return to consult with the rest of our party.
I am not surprised when everyone agrees we need to free the creatures. When we return and descend to the floor of the arena, we recognise the two bugbears and ogre that had been the necromancer’s minions. That evil, silver-tongued man! I hope we get the opportunity to kill him. We free his former servants, who dissuade us from freeing some of the less sentient creatures — and, indeed, I attempt to charm a warg, which will have none of me — and demonstrate their gratitude by leading us out of this chamber of horrors.
Perhaps they know the little-used corridors, for we do not encounter a soul except for a fire-breathing creature which one of the bugbears puts out of its misery, and soon we are at the top of the stairs on ground-level again.
But instead of leading us back into the compound — where we would no doubt have had to face Idressa and her army — they open a secret door which leads directly out into the forest. Then they show us how to open this door, should we ever feel inclined to return.
I think we are all scratching our heads, smiles on our faces as we breathe in the fresh forest air, as we sneak off with no-one the wiser and follow our latest allies through the forest to Nievor-knows where. They are our fourth set of allies in this god-forsaken quest, and I still have no idea what is going to happen next.
But I am wondering whether I might find an animal companion, now that we are back in the blessed forest. Ah, my heart sings at the thought, and I desperately hope I do not need to go underground again any time soon.
The latest adventure was certainly a very big one, effectively a double-session. Our DM says he has given up predicting what we are going to do next. I think we are going to have to keep plying him with wine to make up for it.
Also, although he says he wants to kill us, I think he was possibly a little kind during the owl-bear scene, when two of us sincerely thought we’d be rolling up new characters. I guess it’s much like a good book; events you think you’re not going to get out of (but then miraculously do somehow) are what it’s all about…