It is perhaps an hour after they have set up camp that Ember begins to groan and stir. Soon after, she is awake. The last thing she remembers is Morgan walking down the hallway in front of her into the room with the chariot of light. After that, she says, her memory is just a long series of nightmares with no clear meaning.
The party gives her a little time to eat, drink, and recover before telling her the story of what really happened. She is at first aghast, then incensed, and finally filled with resolve. She heals Thrud until the barbarian is conscious as well.
Meanwhile, Bhelgarn has been spending the time practicing weapons forms and is humming dwarven chants. When asked why he is so chipper, the prince responds, “Och, tha’ little doost-oop with Zargon was jess what I needed! Sure, we were caught with our knickers doon, but now we kin where he is at! I bet if we had a scrape or two more with some of the rough monsters doon here, ye’d all be ready for another go at the god!”
Morgan is dubious whether fighting more monsters to prepare them for Zargon is a good idea, but Thrud seems encouraged by the thought, and FluffyKitten and Odleif seem willing to go along. Iris is in favor of any plan that reunites her with Pooches. Thrud was the only one who was seriously injured in the fight, so after Ember has him up and ready, Morgan agrees to lead them back to the sixth level, where presumably the weakest of the imprisoned monsters are kept.
Thrud has mentioned how his axe blade turned on Zargon’s scales as if they were made of stone, and the party theorizes that magic weapons are needed to hit him. Ember agrees to loan her mace to Thrud when they face him again, and the rest of the party all have magic weapons – except for FluffyKitten.
“Can I haz stabby?” the halfling asks Wolfbane.
“No,” the mage responds, “The Brotherhood gave the magic dagger to me.”
“Can I haz stabby?” she asks again, a few minutes later.
“I said no. Fluffy, the dagger is mine.”
“Can I haz stabby? Pwease?”
“Arggh. I am not talking about this with you.”
“Pwease can I haz stabby pwease, miss wizard.”
Half an hour later, Wolfbane finally agrees to loan FluffyKitten her magic dagger, just to get her to shut up.
Meanwhile, each of the party members have been sharing with Ember their version of the fight with Zargon. She is coming to realize how instrumental the daring of Iris and Wolfbane was – had Iris not put herself into harm’s way by jumping into the pit with Zargon and pulling Thrud out, and had Wolfbane not been able to slow his bleeding until Morgan’s potion could be found, her companion would most assuredly be dead.
During a pause in FluffyKitten’s pestering of Wolfbane, Ember asks to speak with Iris and Wolfbane privately, and they retreat into the short corridor to the east of the room they are in. Ember tells them that she wishes to reward their selfless acts, and offers them their choice of either her own share of the crowns recovered from Alexander and Zenobia, or the blessing of her goddess – in whatever form that might take. Wolfbane opts for the crown, Iris says she would like to accept the blessing.
The party returns to the sunlight room, and ascends both levels of the ladder to arrive at the room where the wood statues attacked. Pooches immediately bounds to Iris, nearly knocking her over, and it is some time before she has him calm enough that they can proceed.
They head out into the southern hallway, the one filled with doors that bear what they believe to be the imprisonment sigil of the Zargonites. As it is considered his idea, Bhelgarn volunteers to touch the first sigil. Reaching forward with his sword, Bhelgarn cautiously raps on the door – the sigil seems undisturbed. He then braces himself to push against the stone valve. Just as the slab moves, there is a flash from the sigil. Red light traces along the outline of the doorway and there is a soft “whooshing” sound, as if a vacuum seal has been broken.
Inside the room (60) are three dogs, looking like sandy-colored short-furred desert dogs. For a few seconds they stand frozen, as if statues or in suspended animation, then they slowly begin moving. The party waits to see their reactions, and they begin to investigate, sniffing each of the party members in turn. Suddenly one of them vanishes, only to re-appear a second later in the hall, standing next to Pooches. The two exchange yips and growls as if speaking, and after that the new dogs seem quite relaxed, as well as eager to follow the party about. All three of them now display frequent disappearing and reappearing.
The odd dogs that disappear and reappear
The party works their way along the hall, pausing again at the door that feels cold to the touch, but no one seems interested in breaking that seal, so they continue on.
Reaching the trio of rooms at the end of the hall marked with the symbols of the gods, they first try the one with no warding sigil (Gorm), and find it empty (70). It appears to have been a living quarters, but all remaining items are ancient and worthless, as is typical of this level.
Next up is the door with the symbol of Usamigares (72). Bhelgarn opens the door, producing the same red flash and seal-breaking sound. Inside are two huge bull-headed men bearing great axes.
What follows is a brief struggle, with the party aided by the fact that the creatures, while immediately hostile, seem to take some time to fully come to their senses. The disappearing dogs remain in the hall, heads cocked quizzically.
The party moves to the last of the three doors, the one in the center (71). Anticipating another fight, this time they rush in immediately upon opening the door, so as to take maximum advantage of their time before the creatures trapped within can react.
The snake-haired women that can turn you to stone!
The two reptilian women within have snakes for hair and the party quickly succeeds in striking them down. However, even as the second one falls, FluffyKitten stares wide-eyed at them and feels a sudden lethargy overtaking her. As the rest of the party looks on, Fluffy seems held rigid as if paralyzed – then turns an ashen color – then has her face actually harden and appear as stone!
The petrification spreads to the halfling’s head, then her neck and is extending into her torso. Not just her flesh, but her whole form, clothes, armor and all, is rapidly becoming a stone statue.
“My dagger!” screams Wolfbane, and frantically digs through her pack. She produces the bone tube as the petrification has reached Fluffy’s upper thighs, and has the scroll out and is reading it when the hardening reaches her calves. As the symbols on the parchment flare into light and then fade, a blue glow surrounds Wolfbane, then shoots out to FluffyKitten. In a second, Fluffy regains her living color and can move again.
As the halfing stands there dazed, before she can react, Wolfbane yells “No more dagger for you!” and wrenches the blade from her hand.
“Enough!” shouts Morgan in a commanding tone. “Sorry, Bhelgarn, but this is not helping us get ready for Zargon. We are getting sloppy, and that just almost cost us a party member. We are done opening doors and fighting random monsters. We are going to rest now, and more importantly, we are going to make plans.”
Brooking no dissent, not that there is much, for even Bhelgarn (after decapitating both snake-women and placing their heads in his bag) voices no objection, Morgan leads the party back to the “captain’s room”, where they had previously rested. The dogs that had been following them are now nowhere to bee seen, and do not re-appear.
Over the next several hours, a careful plan is concocted, with much detail. The central premise of the plan is that Zargon will be difficult to damage with weapons, so a priority is placed on spell attacks and the use of oil. It is hoped that it will be easier to hit him with oil flasks, and further hoped that he will be damaged by fire. Ember plans on taking her Harangue spell. She has not used this before, but effectively neutralizing Zargon’s attacks is seen as key. Remmy and Thrud are to be inserted invisibly into the pit and will then attack the helpless Zargon. At some point acid is mentioned as a possibility, should Zargon prove resistant to fire. Morgan leads an away team back to the fifth level, gathers twenty intact wine bottles (as well as Odleif’s owlbear skin), and carefully fills them from the acid room, returning to the party with them all intact by carrying them bound in ancient iron barrel hoops. She also has several bags of sand, gathered from the floor of the room whose walls talk. At the end of sixteen hours, Ember has healed those who needed it and the party is ready to set out.
This time, the party leaves their non-essential camp gear in the captain’s room, taking only what they plan on using in the fight with Zargon. Pooches is left to guard it. They stop briefly in the room of the bull-headed men to gather the body of one of them, decapitating it first. They travel quickly to the ladder room, and down to the eighth level, for the cost of a few more copper coins. Forfeiting another magic item to the woman in white, this time the knock ring they were given by the Magi, they take the stairs to ninth level and arrange themselves outside the door to the slide-trap room.
They first dismantle the door and door-frame, giving themselves more room to work. The ancient wood crumbles and splinters easily, and they spend more time moving the pieces out of the way then prying it from the stone.
While Bhelgarn pounds a piton into the stone floor, Morgan and Iris both pre-cast magic missile. Glowing arrows appear next to them – they will have about ten minutes to target them before they disappear. Wolfbane casts invisibility on Remmy. As Bhelgarn’s hammer falls, echoes of the blows fill the stone halls around them. “’Ear that, Zargon?” huffs the dwarf. “We be comin’ for ye, boyo.”
Bhelgarn pounds in another piton, Morgan and Iris both arm themselves with another magic missile, and Wolfbane casts a shield spell on herself.
Bhelgarn attaches ropes to both pitons, and carefully throws them down the length of the hall that will become the slide. Morgan casts bagfuls of sand down the hall so as to make the surface as frictive as possible. Odleif lights a torch. Iris casts Invisibility on Thrud. FluffyKitten stuffs two bottles of acid down the neck-hole and into the stomach of the bull-man, with a bit more gusto than is to everyone else’s taste, burying her arm in the body of the beast. Remmy carefully coats his blade with all of the different contents of the many flasks he carries. The thick liquid inside has been drying rapidly in the parched desert air, and he does not figure they will be potent much longer.
In a carefully-timed sequence, Thrud and Bhelgran, with ropes looped loosely about their forearms, push the body of the bull-man forward. As they progress, the floor begins to lower slowly, then swiftly drop. When it gets to the critical angle, the body begins to tumble of its own accord, rolling forward and then dropping into the pit with a splash. They grab their ropes to keep from falling themselves, and Bhelgarn closes his eyes, removes a snake-woman head from his bag, and tosses that in on top of the bull-man body. Wolfbane casts her Ventiloquism spell. Odleif lights his hooded lantern, placing it on the floor of the hall with several arrows nearby. Finally, Morgan casts her hold portal on the ramp, to keep it open even after Thrud and Bhelgarn have pulled themselves back up.
As the ramp opens, Zargon can be seen waiting at the bottom (at least by those with infravision), apparently forewarned by all the noise above. From the body at his feet, or perhaps the head lying next to it, emerges the voice of Wolfbane. “Oh, dear. I have fallen down this ramp and my head has come off. I hope some monstrosity does not find and eat me before I can stand up…”
Zargon’s tentacles find both the head and the body and lift them up out of the slime. The head he tosses into his great maw without ill effect and swallows without even chewing. He is beginning to munch on the great body of the bull-man when Ember begins her Harangue: “Forbannet være du , forferdelig skapning! Hvordan våger du besudle dette stedet med ditt nærvær! Hvor mange århundrer har du spist de happless fangene lei deg? Hvor mange mennesker har blitt drept i Undercity i sjofel navn? Sannelig, jeg ringe ned vrede GLØD på deg! Hun skal brenne deg med ild vegeance og flammene av rettferdighet!”
Morgan hastily opens the stoppers of her two oil flasks and stuffs rags into their necks.
Ember comes to realize that her harangue is not working. She believes that Zargon is not sentient enough to have a conscience, and so is unaffected. “Wait, wait!” she cries to the others, but they have already sprung into action.
Thrud and Remmy slide quickly down the ropes and spread out, moving around to the rear of Zargon. “Now!” cries Morgan, and she looses her two magic missiles into the body of Zargon, with them exploding as they hit. Iris quickly follows suit. Bhelgarn, Odleif, and FluffyKitten all throw acid bottles that break on the body of Zargon, the acid hissing and sizzling as it burns his flesh. He seems easy enough to hit as such – in fact, with his huge body filling the space of the ramp, it would be hard to miss.
Zargon’s tentacles jerk in pain as he is struck blow after blow. He drops the mangled, half-eaten body of the bull-man into the slime.
[Zargon took a total of 36 points of damage this round, with four magic missiles at d6+1 each, three acid bottles at 2d4 each, and another two inside the minotaur for half damage]
Seeing the obvious effect of the acid, Thrud ends his invisibility by tossing a bottle, breaking it against Zargon’s back. Remmy stabs at a foot-tentacle with his envenomed blade, but the stony scales turn aside his weapon. Bhelgarn, Odleif, and FluffyKitten, now joined by Iris, throw acid-filled bottles at Zargon. Three impact him, but Odlief’s goes wide as Zargon begins to turn and move away from the ramp. It lands somewhere deep in the room, splashing down in the slime. Morgan lowers her flask to Odleif’s lantern just long enough to catch the rags on fire, then hurls it at Zargon. With satisfaction, she sees it shatter against his body and then a large section of his skin erupt in flames.
Zargon is slowly retreating from the ramp, and turns and faces Thrud and Remmy in the pit. His arm-tentacles lash out, and both of them are slashed by talons.
[Zargon took a total of 19 points of damage this round, from four acid bottles at 2d4 each, and an oil flask for d8]
Zargon moves into the corner of the room, and then turns around defensively, back to the wall and out of sight of the hallway above. His talons continue to slash wickedly at Thrud and Remmy, scoring nasty hits on each. Those in the party hurling acid and oil are forced to come halfway down the ramp to see him. Bhelgarn is out of acid, but Ember quickly hands him the bottle she carried. Bhelgarn, Thrud, and Iris all throw acid, with two of them hitting, and Morgan lands another oil flask, adding further to the flames engulfing the gigantic body. Odleif takes a step forward to throw, but a tentacle from Zargon wraps around him, and bears him cursing to the great maw. A huge bite savages the woodsman’s body, but he curses again and breaks his bottle against Zargon’s face, splashing both the monster and himself with acid. FluffyKitten is out of acid – she rapidly descends a rope and begins evading tentacles while she stabs at Zargon’s huge bulk.
[Zargon took a total of 23 points of damage this round, from four acid bottles at 2d4 each, and an oil flask for d8]
With Zargon’s great eye filled with acid from Odleif, his tentacles lash out in all directions. Thrud dodges them, runs up to the main body, and buries his axe deep into the creature. Zargon’s huge form wavers, then collapses into the muck and slime, throwing the body of Odleif clear and crashing down scant inches from FluffyKitten. The god is dead.
The party erupts in shouts and cheers, even while Ember rapidly descends the ramp and wades through the muck to Odleif’s side. He is severely wounded, but still conscious. Bhelgarn and Iris descend into the pit. Wolfbane and Morgan remain above, with Morgan directing the search for treasure and Bhelgarn holding aloft his sword for light.
Deep under the muck, the floor of the pit seems carpeted in equal measure with bones and coins. The party ignores these and tries to find larger items. Eventually they come up with a set of human-sized chain armor (Bhelgarn), a shield (Thrud), a spear (despite their suspicions, this is not Hazrad’s – Thrud), a cloak (Fluffy), boots (Iris), a scroll tube (Remmy), and a wand (Morgan). All of these are hauled out. Thrud and Bhelgarn squabble over Zargon’s great black horn, but eventually it goes to the human barbarian. Several in the party rip and cut out teeth or talons from Zargon’s corpse. Others begin to sift through the muck, ignoring the silver coins but keeping the platinum.
As the party files up the ramp, Ember is the last to leave. She first says a few words of thanks to her goddess, then carefully removes a belt pouch. She takes out 13 copper pieces, 4 gold coins, and 1 electrum, and tosses them into the muck below. Asked about this later, she mentions that this was treasure she was carrying for Hazrad, and leaves it at that.
Weary yet elated, the party retraces their steps back to the captain’s room and the waiting Pooches.
[DM’s note; enough xp was gained for Thrud, FluffyKitty, and Pooches to each advance to level 5]