Well I needn't have worried; eight student (two female, six male) chose my table, automatically seating themselves in marching order.
The former player of the Mighty Ferdik took control of NPC, Brunhilda (F1), Ferdik's grieving betrothed. The player of another casualty adopted the role of "Danny the Arthropod," a giant centipede that Ferdik had adopted (i.e. carried around in a sack and sometimes fed) some sessions earlier.
The party was rounded out by Dilliam the Wizard (MU 2), Kermit the Brute (F3), Matilda (witch), Ghaul (Elf 1), Zekiel the Fool / Cook, and a kitten.
Dilliam began the session by continuing to commune with Mag Kargne, the Beetle Lord, spontaneously learning the tongues of beetles and other insects. Amid a loud chorus of demands and requests from his party-members, Dilliam petitioned Mag Kargne for another boon:
"I want wings! Give me wings!"
Mag Kargne required a sacrifice for such a gift and, after the kitten refused to volunteer, Zekiel came to the rescue with a greasy, pulled-pork sandwich. As a result, Dilliam was bestowed with a perfect, functional pair of scarab wings ... each about an inch and a half long. Before withdrawing to the depths of the Deep Astral Plane, Mag Kargne revealed that the explorers were indeed quite close to the Azoth Reservoir and therefore on the right track to fulfill the quest set before them by wizard Loomis Dooin.
Despite being voted party leader, the generally stoic Brunhilda was despondent at the loss of her beloved Ferdik and delayed setting off, permitting a clutch of giant, blind, dungeon-ticks to ramble into the group's midst. Despite Dilliam's attempt to negotiate, the bugs were bent on blood. The party prevailed against the creatures handily, shook off their malaise, and (Zekiel having restocked his "dungeon meat") explored deeper into level three.
Discovering a chamber bisected by a force field and flanked by twin, bronze statues, the group probed and poked at length, determined to bypass the invisible barrier. Observing that there was a space of a few hand-breadths wide between each stern metal figure and the buttresses behind them, Danny the Arthropod and the kitten slipped through the gap and into the far side of the warded hall with ease.
Stripped of gear and "buttered up" with pulled-pork drippings, Ghaul and Matilda also managed to make the squeeze, but even without armor or gear, no other expedition members were anywhere close to being small enough to pass through the narrow breach.
Plunging blithely onward, Danny, Ghaul and company discovered a storeroom crowded with reinforced, metal barrels ... all empty, save one. There, in the bottom of the last, sloshed some 40 gallons of raw Azoth!
Volatile and precious, the group immediately began thinking about how to get this "raw stuff of magic" out of Dwimmermount.
"I dip my flask in the barrel."
"We should light it!"
"No! It's worth a fortune ... thousands!"
"But remember how much damage that one azoth grenade did?" [3D6]
"This could blow the whole mountain up!"
"No, stupid! We'd all die!"
"It'd be worth it."
"It'll be awesome!"
"I'm going to lick some."
By the end of the session, Danny had slithered into the stuff, acquiring an odd mutation or two, but the players hadn't yet figured out how to get the big barrel safely past the force field. Still, as I called time, a steady stream of ideas were being shouted up and down the length of the table.
With only two more sessions left, will the group's latest find be the big break that they've been waiting for, or will it spell their doom?