After their brief but ferocious encounter with the giant killer shrews, the party headed south down a newly discovered tunnel. Before long, the fetid smell of mold and large carnivore was detected in the air, under which was the scent of fresh water, and Grumble and Kejair, as the demi-humans of the party were sent ahead to scout. The party had come to believe that water would lead them out of the caves underneath Hob’s Hill and were now dedicated to finding that precious liquid.
Grumble and Kejair progressed a short distance before coming to a cave, one which seemed to have a small grotto located behind it. The smell was thicker here and the duo crossed the cave cautiously towards the smaller opening. Their progress was halted by the snuffling, growling hulk of an owlbear who emerged from the cave and hooted at them menacingly. The two turned and ran; the owlbear dropping to all fours in pursuit. As the dwarf and elf reached the party, the owlbear’s claws tore apart Kejair, splattering the walls of the tunnel with gore.
The owlbear was a tough opponent, but volleys of arrows and the fact that it could not connect with both its claws to rend the party to pieces led to its ultimate defeat. The party returned to its lair and found a small clean pool of water inside, the source of the smell they had detected, but not a way out. Taking a new path, the party found themselves once again near the throne room of King Don III and decided not to deal with his madness again unless absolutely necessary. They returned to the octagonal entry chamber to pursue one of the few remaining paths left open to them.
This tunnel brought them south, past were a side passage branched off from the main path. The party trudged along, intending to continue down the main thoroughfare when a translucent pseudopod emerged to swipe at Baragkus. The blow missed, but a large cubic form followed close behind, threatening to envelop the entire party. Gelatinous cube!
The band turned and fled, but poor Baragkus was overtaken by the cube and devoured. Hoping to retrieve his corpse before it was completely dissolved so as to raise him from the dead, the party turned to battle the beast. Axe blows, arrows, and a finely time flask of oil and thrown torch defeated the beast, allowing the party to recovered the fighting man’s body and collect a score or two of gold coins. Hardly an equal trade.
Now burdened with Baragkus’ body, the party turned down the side tunnel and again detected the smell of water, although this time it bore a slightly sulfurous taint. In a small cave adjacent to the passage the party discovered a mineral laden pool of water, which again provided no egress from the caves. Continuing along, they became excited to see a doorway ahead of them, the first they had encountered outside the eight that stood in the octagonal chamber. After examining the door, the party opened it and almost began to cry.
It was an octagonal chamber.
Luckily, the party noticed that this one lacked the “N” they had inscribed on the northernmost door way in the first octagonal room they had found themselves in. This led them to suspect they had either encountered a second such chamber or that the door had been replaced in their absence. Either was a likely scenario at this point. They sat scrutinizing Mars’ map and concluded that unless there had been grievous errors, they had indeed found a second chamber.
Deciding to finish their explorations before tackling a new batch of doors, the party headed towards the main tunnel, only to hear the heavy sounds of footfalls. They ran into the two ogres they had previously encountered, who expressed their distress of coming to watch over them only to find them gone after their initial encounter. The party explained that they had gotten lost and the ogres offered to lead them back, but the party dismissed the help. The ogres shrugged, filled their waterskins from the sulfurous water of the cave, and departed.
The party took a left at the side tunnel-main tunnel junction and found that the main tunnel terminated in a dead end, exactly as the ogres had told them it would. Some poking around revealed another false wall, one that led back into the grotto that held the slain wizard and the treasure trove. The party decided to rest again in this sanctuary before exploring the doors in the second octagonal room and rested without incident.
Healed and prepared for new challenges, the party ventured back to the octagonal chamber, encountering a quartet of flying piranha birds as they went. After dispatching the avian killers, the party found that the door to the chamber was open, as were three of the doors within. From one came the smell of water and the sound of churning rapids. Could it be?
Yes, it could. The party found themselves on a rocky beach, a roiling subterranean river heading to the east away from the labyrinth of caverns. Knowing the river they had crossed to reach the hill lay in that direction, the party followed a narrow rocky ledge that abutted the water and came across another rocky beach and wide tunnel some 500 feet down the watercourse. They ventured into the tunnel with both caution and exasperation. Would this underground hell never end?
Taking one of the tunnel’s forks by whim, the party headed on an east and southern route that took them to the site of a large rock fall. The tunnel continued on at the top of the rocky incline and the fall appeared to be relatively stable and climbable. Seeing as up was the direction they wished to go, the band elected Gareth to scale the slope first and the dwarf began his ascent.
Halfway up the slope, a giant rattler was disturbed by the climber and struck out at the dwarf. With no weapon at hand and poison fangs in his face, Gareth threw himself back and into the air, tumbling down the slope and damaging himself in the fall. The great snake advanced on the party, slithering down the rocky course, but was slain by arrows and daggers before it got close enough to strike. The snake dead, the party scaled the slope without incident and continued along the tunnel that awaited them at its apex.
As the group followed this new tunnel, exhaustion had taken its toll on their senses and they were surprised by an old and hated foe: the crab spider. Dropping from the ceiling above into their very midst, the arachnid sank its fangs into Grumble, pumping poison into the wrestler’s bloodstream. A blown saving throw later, the dwarf lay dead on the ground and a potion of human control in his gut, the last ditch effort of pouring unidentified potions into a dying party member having failed a second time.
Now down another fighter (and burdened by his corpse as well as Baragkus’), the party continued down the passage, praying for the sight of daylight. They instead found a large cavern occupied by the motionless forms of two large iguana-like lizards. The reptiles lay stretched out; their eye shut tight, and taking no notice of the party. So the adventures naturally decided to kill them.
To do so, Korlack drank a potion of invisibility and his elven cloak was given to Cullen. The plan was to sneak up to the lizards and stab them in their sleep. The two crept forward (assumingly) and Korlack plunged his dagger into the slumbering lizard, which immediately awoke and was peppered by arrows. As each struck, the beast’s back grew redder and redder and waves of heat flowed off the animal. One last arrow struck home and the lizard died, expelling a blast of fiery breath into the air as it collapsed onto the ground.
That’s when the party noticed that the second lizard remained unmoving. “Cullen,” they called out, but not reply came. That sonofabitch! He had taken the cloak and snuck off, obviously thinking that he had a better chance of getting out of this place alone with a magical cloak than with these trouble magnets. Oh, the party was pissed.
At the far end of the lizard cave stood a stone, slab-like door, which the party pried open despite its great weight. In the small cave beyond it lay a decrepit living quarters. A skeleton dressed in plate armor lay slumped on a creaking chair, a longsword near it bony hand. A quiver of five arrows hung on its back and a broken longbow lay under an ancient table. The party helped themselves to armor, arrows, and sword and continued to search the room, finding a secret door in one wall. This led to a narrow, slightly upward heading passage that ended in a blank wall. Further searching found the secret door at this dead end, and the concealed portal was opened to reveal an awesome sight beyond it.
A great cavern stretched out before the party. At the far end was a wide tunnel from which the dim light of the surface world shone. At long last the exit had been found! One problem: Between them and the exit lay the great form of a red dragon!!!
The party returned to the skeleton’s room and planned their egress as best as they could. It was decided that Mars Markus would cloak them all in a silence spell to cover their crossing. Marlowe would bear the magical arms they had found and equip himself with one of the rings of fire resistance. If all turned bad, Marlowe would try and fight the beast while the others ran with their slain comrades, hopefully buying them time to escape. The party rested fitfully and then prepared. Slinking back up the tunnel, they entered the cavern.
The party followed the southern wall, slipping past the dragon’s body until they reached the midway point of the cavern. That’s when the dragon’s head rose, its neck pivoting to place the party directly in the wyrm’s line of sight…and more importantly, breath.
The dragon inquired as to whom was sneaking into his home and the party was forced to try and talk their way out of their dire predicament. Shedding the silence spell since it no longer did them any good, the band began to tell the dragon their story—their arrival in this world, their exploits in Stonehell, their involvement in the Hobgoblin War—anything to keep the beast’s attention and win mercy from it.
As Mars recounted their tale, the dragon listened with interest at first, but as the story dragged on, it became less entertained and began to drum its talons impatiently. The party pressed on, hoping for a streak of luck that would save them. The dragon, eventually deciding that these interlopers needed a reminder of the prowess of its kind, shifted its great bulk, inhaled, and incinerated the party.