With Vale in a swoon from brain-fever and Y'draneal nowhere to be found, it fell to Ivor the Opener of Doors (level 4 fighter) to lead this week's expedition into Dwimmermount. Joining him were Hurtis and Sergei (fighting men), and Kenny the Magician.
Without Y'draneal and his maps, Ivor broke down and purchased a copy of the route through the Path of Mavors from rival explorers The Five Delvers. This stung of course, because The Five Delvers had purchased their map from our own explorers, but none of the players were willing to risk getting lost inside the labyrinthine, mountain fortress.
So equipped, the group looked over the map and Hurtis pointed out a set of descending steps that had been discovered long before, but which the group had never ventured to explore.
The halls of the Path of Saint Mavors were eerily quiet and clear as the adventurers made their way to the neglected stair. A broad swath of yellow mold blocked the way, and Hurtis recalled hearing Y'draneal's earlier account of being blinded and nearly choked to death by the mold's many spores.
As one of the newer members, Sergei was tasked with putting the fungus to the torch ... a process that went very slowly but which proved effective in the end, though they never discovered whether the mold actually posed any sort of danger.
Descending to a circular atrium below, the group was confronted by a small pack of beastmen.
While the creatures gabbled and snorted at them in some ancient tongue (a greeting? a warning? a threat? who knows!), Ivor made his way to the front to open negotiations:
"I swing my greatsword -- a 19. Hey, with my Champion thing that's a critical hit!"
Taking 4d6 damage, the pig-faced creature not only had its head swept off, but was cloven in two before it could fall. After such a display of martial prowess the rest fled squealing and shrieking into the dark.
From there Ivor led the party through a storeroom (where Hurtis acquired a jar of some odd, greenish goop which he hoped was poison) and right into another, larger pack of beastmen.
Kenny unleashed his Sleep spell, and to his delight found that somehow the azoth-tainted air of the chamber boosted the incantation's efficacy. He alone was left awake in the chamber and he hastened to snatch up Sergei's axe and hew the head off the largest beastman.
As friends were awaken and creatures dispatched, Kenny discovered a sack of ancient, copper pennies along with a few gems stashed under a bench.
Kenny: "Ooh! I'm going to keep it all!"
Sergei: "Um, can I get my axe back please?"
Following a low, groaning sound, the group next discovered a pair of "dwimmerlings" (dwarves) chained to a wall -- apparently prisoners of the beastmen. Kenny immediately voted to dispatch them (before they could get free), then to leave them, but Ivor eventually dared to release them after one of the dwimmerlings turned out to have some command of the common tongue ("Eh ... jou know zhat vee can hear all zhis, ya?").
No sooner had Ivor used Sergei's crowbar to pry free the pin holding the chained dwarves then a whole horde of beastmen ... as many as a score ... came rushing to the attack from the southern hall.
Ivor: "Ooh, ooh, I know what we should do! Can we make a phalanx?"
I'm a history teacher and one of my students remembered a vocab word from class ... how could I possibly say no?
Ivor sheathed his greatsword and switched to a shield and spear and a shield wall was formed a half-stride into the chamber, picking a place where the enemies could only come at them a few at a time.
Two of the three fighters had chosen the Protection fighting style, allowing them to convey Disadvantage upon an attack aimed at a neighboring ally once per round. This, combined with plate and shield, meant that the many 19s and 20s that I proceeded to roll were insufficient to break through the defense and the shield wall proved impenetrable. Soon enemy bodies began to pile up before the fighters in reeking heaps (we used toppled chess pawns for dead foes, heaped between two pencils that marked the walls of the corridor -- you could actually see the moment when the mound reached waist height).
During the battle, Kenny the Magician made a clever use of Prestidigitation to close a door behind the beastmen, temporarily dividing their forces, and later manipulating the latch of the same door to delay their retreat.
As our session ended the group trooped back to the surface in high spirits with the bag of loot (at which point Kenny received a quick lesson about sharing). The gems they recovered proved to be worth far more than the twenty-odd pounds of pennies, and if they can find a way to spend it next session then a couple of the characters will level up.
Curiously, amid all the action, Hurtis and Ivor seemed to have completely forgotten that, just two sessions prior, they had learned that The Seekers had been successful in negotiating with the beastmen and using them as guides and guards while in Dwimmermount. Perhaps next time they'll find out if the wholesale slaughter of these pig-people has put them at odds with the senior adventuring band ...