"Terrible monsters attacked my friends. You got to come help--there was fire and death. I made it out, but their a'dyin in there!"
When the Delvers did appear, their leader, the canny Asceline, wasn't in a hurry to trust Zekiel nor help rivals who got in too deep, but owing her reckless nature she pushed ahead, suspecting an ambush.
Though they had lost the element of surprise, the PC's party hit hard, wasting no time in parlay, and had they coordinated their attacks a bit better they might have finished the Delvers off then and there. As it was, however, a few of the explorers dithered or waited to see how things would develop (including their skinwalker, witch, and magic-user) a few used ranged attacks, and only three closed for melee. Then the party's elf tossed the azoth grenade, catching at least as many friends as enemies in the deafening blast. This was enough for the Delvers and Asceline called a retreat at the same time that Matilda the witch called up a fog cloud to further confuse things.
The Delvers retreated up the stair toward the Red Gates, leaving a prone Lorenz behind under Kermit the Brute's relentless rain of blows. Thonyn, the Delver's own magic-user, blocked the stair with a Web spell while Asceline poured oil down the steps.
Ferdik and the rest weren't so easily dissuaded, however, and once the Web was hacked and burned down he ordered a pursuit across the miles between Dwimmermount and Muntburg. The Delvers had a big lead and when the party's skinwalker raced ahead, Thonyn Charmed him and sent him back to foil the pursuit.
In the end, each party lost one man.
Back in Muntburg, the captain of the watch observed the last stage of the fight from the walls and he made it clear that should this quarrel spill over into the streets of the fortress town that he would see each and every member of both groups hanged.
About a week later, at the top of our next session, nine explorers assembled to do a bit of shopping before setting out for the mountain. Zekiel bought an apron and a dribbling, greasy pack full of meat of questionable provenance: "Pulled pork!"
On their way out of Muntburg, an urchin approached Zekiel, begging for a few pennies or a morsel to tide him over. Rewarded with a quantity of pork between two crusts of bread, the lad let slip that he had been paid to let the Delvers know when next Ferdik's group headed to Dwimmermount. It sounded like there might be some payback in the offing ... but the party plunged ahead nevertheless.
Once again under Ferdik's leadership, the party's focus on their quest lasted just one room. Following some odd, low voices they happened upon a party of wary dwarves. The group had made a habit of murdering these "Dwimmerlings" in prior encounters, finding their loot to be above average, but in this case Zekiel instead shouldered his way to the front of the line and proffered a pulled pork sandwich:
"The first one's free!"
The dwarves accepted (with a critically favorable reaction roll) and ordered several more.
Deciding that dwarves were good chaps after all and didn't need any murdering today, Ferdik led the group back toward the stairs to level two. They paused only in a room with a pair of familiar, silent, quarreling phantoms ... the apparitions always appeared in the same place and seemed harmless ... just long enough to hold a pulled pork sandwich up to a phantom's silently speaking mouth so that it looked as if he were eating it.
Level two proved to be fairly quiet and the lonely green slime encountered was tossed a pulled pork sandwich of its own. When someone suggested burning the dangerous creature they were shouted into silence ... this slime was now a customer.
"Now we've got the beggar-kid market, the dwarf market and the ooze market ... we're gonna be rich!"
Running a little low on pork, Zekiel began keeping a sharp eye out for "dungeon meat" ... the kind that tends to accrue when you travel in the company of four or five fighters.
Soon they came to the "mean column lady" (as she was marked on their map). A living stone pillar in the shape of a woman who guarded the descent to level three. Previous encounters had shown that she was devilishly fast and would lash out with staggering strength at anyone who tried to pass her by.
After liberally smearing the front of the impassive statue with pork, Kermit the Brute tossed a sandwich past her toward the stair. Reacting with blinding speed the edible missile was intercepted midair and swatted back at him hard enough to actually blacken one of his eyes!
The group was stymied so Ferdik simply began to beat on the column with his crowbar. A fight ensued and the party was getting the worst of it under the statue's hammering, stone fists until their wizard flipped a few pages in his magic codex (its pages only turn one way) and cast Color Spray upon the column. The spell left it confused long enough for the battered group to slip past and down to level three.
After finding and messing about with some odd, gray, stretchy robes, the party encountered a pack of rat-creatures--pulled pork time!
It seemed like the rat-thing market was soon to be all sewn up until someone decided to chuck a flask of alchemist fire at the creatures. It was a miss, and the rat-people scattered, but a quarrel broke out and the party split, Ferdik leading Brunhilda, a goblin, Zekiel, and Merc the fighter back toward the surface while Ghaul the elf (who had the map), the kitten, Kermit the Brute, Matilda the witch, and the wizard pressed on looking for loot and these spirit-machine things they were supposed to find for Loomis Dooin.
While Ghaul's group accidentally made contact with a creepy scarab spirit, learning that the sun is apparently just an edible dung-ball that it rolls across the sky daily, Ferdik back-tracked to the stairs with his group.
Unfortunately, Ferdik completely forgot about the mean column lady guarding the top of the stair. She had recovered fully from the spell by now and promptly struck Ferdik down with a single mighty blow.
Pausing a few moments to consider the broken shape of the party leader heaped on the steps, the goblin tried to dash past and was also struck down with a single mighty blow.
Merk the fighter, in his turn, also paused to consider this development from across the bodies of both his party leader and fellow explorer. With a shrug he tried to dash past the column and was struck down with a single mighty blow.
Zekiel, perhaps after an off-camera pause to restock his "dungeon meat," opted to retreat back down the steps into level three to rendezvous with the rest of the party.
As we closed the session, the surviving party members were together on level three, but did they still have the strength of arms to accomplish their goal, and if so, how would they escape Dwimmermount?