The mist peeled back to reveal Jeanette’s room again. Knowing from Lairn’s previous visit that there was a secret door on the east wall, they searched the west wall for another one (Thorcigar’s mapping proficiency had indicated that there was about 50’ unaccounted for from the rooms they’d seen so far.
After some searching, they found another secret door and opened it. Behind was another fabulous bed room (strangely with no other exits) that contained a man with a lion head wearing fabulously ornate plate armor and wearing a golden crown. He immediately demanded the meaning of their intrusion into his chambers and Long Tom explained, as he does to everyone they meet, that they were simply seeking an exit and please sir, do you know a way out?
Richard de’Amberville gave them the same response they’d encountered with everyone: there is no way out. He also demanded they leave his chambers at once. The party quietly did, happy with the knowledge that they weren’t murder hoboes. Raakaa, who had been cringing in cat form the entire time, told them that Richard led the Cazin he’d been connected to.
The other secret door opened into a room that was faded and cobweb covered. Two ghostly figures rested in the room but upon seeing the party, they shred their human appearance revealing black cowls of darkness that flew across the room, charging the surprised characters. Luckily for them, the wraiths missed their attacks (Klangor was on the front line and would have died from a single hit).
With the clerics and the magic weapons on the go, they threw back one of the wraiths immediately and began bashing on the remaining on. Anika threw a Fire Burst over the party to hit the wraiths, and I made the characters who were in melee already with the things make a save versus Death with a bonus to avoid getting caught on the edge of the blast. The first level dwarf made it, luckily, while Raakaa suffered some burns.
I reminded everyone that she was essentially throwing a magical grenade and they don’t have the luxury of easily identifiable blast patterns like they do in later editions. Basically I don’t want people dropping AoE spells that ‘just miss’ their mates in melee (which is standard operating procedure in later editions). I’ll probably have to figure out something hard and fast, like a save versus death ray to avoid half damage (I use an easier save than Blast because, well, they are trying to exclude the characters). But I think the first time a frontline character takes half damage from a fireball will be the last time that trick gets used in combat. Everyone seemed cool with it.
Oh, this also brought up the question of whether a shield could be sundered to avoid the wraith’s attack, which I said no since I view them as incorporeal creatures that lack a physical presence unless wielding weapons or something.
Searching the room, they found an iron safe behind a mirror but without a thief or knock spell, or any evidence of keys (though they tried the weird silver key they found earlier to no avail) they had to leave it behind.
They found the kitchen full of ghostly hobgoblins in amber livery preparing another ghostly banquet. A quick search revealed nothing of value so they left. They debated what move to make now, whether they should confront the Cazin or not. Finally they decided they would, but before they messed with the cat-folk, they needed to spike Richard’s door shut.
So back to the secret door they went and they began to knock the spikes into place. Of course this made noise that he heard and he came to investigate. Unable to open the door at first, he began trying to force it open while Long Tom tried to pound more spikes in. Richard won, bursting through the door to stand over the guilty looking blade dancer.
“What do you think you’re doing?” he demanded.
Long Tom didn’t have a witty retort on hand as the massive plate-mailed figure loomed over him. Klangor decided to throw Ophidius, but Richard saw the threatening move and went for his own blade.
Initiative was rolled and Jayna went first (as usual). One Hold Person later, and we learned why even powerful (10th level) fighters are still vulnerable to lower level casters.
They stripped him of his gear and then began to debate what to do with him. Neither Long Tom nor Kenan-Tal were particularly comfortable killing a helpless figure, but RaaKaa claimed he’d hunt them down once the spell wore off especially if they robbed him. Grimly, the pair decided a quick death would be the best they could give him. As they held their quiet talk, Jayna walked up wiping the blood off her knife. “What are you guys talking about?”
They looked over at the dead Richard with his slit throat and back to Jayna. “We hadn’t finished deciding what to do with him,” they said.
She shrugged. “Hey, I took him out, I get to decide what happens to him. Besides, I could tell you guys were coming around to my way of thinking.”
Secretly I think they were relieved to have the choice taken away from them. Richard provided a vast amount of loot-a valuable golden crown, a suit of magic plate armor, and a sword made of adamant, with the name Chrysaor etched into the diamond hard blade. Anika shook when she handled the weapon, telling them how powerful it was. To prove her point, she struck one of the posts on his four cornered post bed, slicing completely through the thick wood.
(Ah, random treasure…they weren’t really supposed to fight Richard, I don’t think, but they did and took out a 10th level fighter in one round netting them a crazy powerful sword and +2 Plate armor. Guess it’s good she opted for Hold instead of Charm Person).
After that, they saw no reason not to investigate the room with the cat people. I imagine Raakaa’s story of the cat people’s extreme wealth had something to do with their willingness to harass them.
The encounter went much as to be expected. The party barged in and the cazin looked up. They spoke, imperiously, to Raakaa for a few moments, trying to figure out why he brought monkeys into their chambers. Long Tom’s helm of comprehend languages allowed him to understand and speak to the leader of the tribe, Black Scar. They cats had no interest in helping the party, there was no escape, blah, blah. But Raakaa belonged to them.
The entire conversation, he was in tiger form, hackles raised and whimpering, obviously brow beaten by these creatures. When Black Scar called him their slave, that was enough for Long Tom and the fight started. Despite the parties concerns about the might of the cazin, they hacked their way through them without too much difficulty. Though they did learn a valuable lesson…Ophidius can be harmed when you snake up someone in the midst of a large group (they used it on the shaman of the tribe but the warriors near him tried to kill the snake… poor rolls saved it but it took nearly half its hits in damage).
With the cazin dead, the party checked their chest and found it full of treasure…the largest hoard they’d encountered so far in fact (around 12K of gold and platinum). This is a problem with the ‘Rakasta’ race, they have a ridiculous treasure type for their relative danger. They have the same treasure type as some much more powerful monsters and definitely don’t obey the 4gold xp per 1 fighting xp rule! I can only assume this was a mistake in Isles of Dread that never got corrected, or maybe the 2HD cat people are also miners?
With no room unexplored in the west wing, they party turned back to the garden. They met Rena and the Unicorn again who were none to happy to see them. But some quick talking and apologizing on their part, as well as a heal from Jayna on the unicorn’s bruises, smoothed things over. But the party isn’t exactly on their Christmas list any more.
Deciding between the north wing and the east wing, they opted for east. They past some strange plants, a mixture of white roses and yellow flowers. The yellow flowers were stirred by the wind and released a cloud of pollen. Everyone in the party fell asleep except the paladin, with Jayna, Long Tom, Cronyan, and Anika stumbling off the path into the grass before they fell asleep. Klangor grumbled and went over to pull Long Tom back to the stones only to notice that the grass was winding around him, holding him in place. Klangor also noticed the white roses were bending towards the faces and exposed skin of the characters and wrapping their thorny vines around the soft flesh. Everyone they pierced immediately awoke, but just as quickly fell back to the grass, a soporific smile upon their faces.
The white roses began turning red.
Klangor hacked at the grass, trying to pull Long Tom free but he could see he wouldn’t free everyone in time.
Aaaaand then the mist descended. It felt like a cheap out-the lone 1st level paladin the only character awake while everyone else was being blood-drained to death. Granted, any other result would probably have resulted in a Half-Party Kill. But, Long Tom’s player had to leave and with only two players, I wasn’t going to keep the scene going.
So, the mist has saved their lives in a very direct sense. Granted, it will deposit them immediately back where they left off, meaning they are going to face the same encounter again…but maybe there will be more people this time.