Original date of this Journal: 07/24/09
This original posts has been written by our DM: Madfox11
[DM note: the player of Nuryam was not present during this session.]
Not wanting to wait at the gates, but fearing a meeting with the spider in their current condition, the Hunters contemplate alternative paths. It doesn't take much time to conclude that neither climbing up, nor climbing down is a real option, but more importantly, they fear what would happen if the demon dwarves do catch up while climbing. So instead they follow the path out of the canyon, trusting that the spider is going to respect their earlier agreement even though they are not at their full strength.
[DM note: Personally I found the suspicion of the spider rather funny. Somehow people assume spiders are evil, treacherous and always hungry. I wonder whether this is the result of humans' inherent fear of spiders, or how spiders are usually portrayed in fantasy novels, or how I depicted the spider in the earlier encounter. The spider certainly did not initiate any violence at the time, and made it clear it never attacked eladrin, but was less certain on how to deal with humans (never having met them before).]
After about 10 minutes the Hunters arrive at the spider's lair, and unsurprisingly, it appears out of its cave as soon as they get within jumping distance. Instead of attacking though, it curiously asks what happened to them. The Hunters are reluctantly drawn into some small talk, but their pursuers are instantly forgotten when the spider mentions a backdoor in her lair that leads into the stronghold behind the waterfall. At first the spider does not want to grant access, citing fear of getting into conflict with the demon dwarves as well as an inability to control its offspring when prey enters their domain. By convincing the spider that the demon dwarves are going to destroy its lair using some technical terms involving steam and pressure, and by offering a large deer for its young, they manage to convince the spider to allow them access sometime the next day. Once the deal is made, the Hunters quickly leave still wary for pursuers.
[DM note: I do not remember the exact remark, but something triggered the spider in mentioning the backdoor. It led to a small impromptu complexity 1 skill challenge combining Bluff, Thievery/Dungeoneering, Diplomacy and Nature (representing the hunt for the deer later on) to convince the spider in allowing access to the backdoor.]
Once out of the canyon, the Hunters meet up with Splug and the dwarf merchant and set up camp some distance away from the canyon, again using the Create Campsite ritual to hide the camp from both Sidhe and flying demons. Barsjt, Jakul and Snorri set out to hunt a deer for the spider (complicated by the need to keep the deer alive since spiders apparently prefer life prey), while the rest enjoys the rest. The hunt is successful, the night uneventful, and so Hunters set out early the next morning well rested and refreshed. Tracks show that the demon dwarves did send out scouts to search for them, but also that at least those on foot did not spend much energy on their search. No guard is posted. The Hunters reach the spider unopposed, and finalize the deal made the previous day.
The spider's lair is dark, and strangely warm at the end were an opening leads into the ancient dwarf stronghold. In the small room, lay the remains of a couple of dead spiders, signs of an earlier struggle between the spiders and the demon dwarves. One room further the warmth and humidity increases, and mud tracks on the floor show that dwarf patrols pass the area regularly leading from an apparently muddy area down a corridor that once was a virtual deathtrap. After a short discussion, the Hunters decide to backtrack the tracks. It takes them through one big room and down steep stairs into a huge room. The room used to have a stone floor covered with a beautiful mosaic, but it collapsed some time ago into the mud below. The mud is almost uncomfortably warm to touch, and seems to be actually boiling at a handful of spots. Tracks at an opening across the room suggest the demon dwarves certainly marched through the mud on a regular basis, so the Hunters carefully march across as well. Before they are halfway though four figures rise out of the mud - once demon dwarves, but now clearly clawed undead monstrosities. The fight that follows is short, but brutal, and Snorri and Jakul nearly die. Once again Barsjt wavestride boots proof its usefulness, and eventually all four undead are destroyed.
[DM note: this was supposed to be an easy fight of three low-level sodden ghouls and a high level sodden wailing ghoul. Jakul started on the wrong position, worsened by a bad string of dice rolls (starting with the PCs' initiative) made the fight a LOT harder then it was supposed to be.]
Carefully proceeding, the opening takes them into what appears to be a large kitchen. Of special interest in some kind of stone steam oven - an ingenious construction made by the original builders of the stronghold apparently using the hot springs in the previous room to their advantage. The furniture and cooking utensils are makeshift and new, clearly showing the demon dwarves apparently do need to eat (or at least savor the taste of cooked food and ale). Once the Hunters verify there is nothing of value, they open a second door which leads them into a huge throne room. At one end stand a 20-feet wide, 20-feet high stone double door, and at the other side a balcony 20 feet above the floor with on it a large steel statue of Moradin. The real attention though is drawn to three demon dwarves with leather armor and bastardswords and two winged blue lizard-like demons on the platform. A booming voice from the statue demands to know why the Hunters are here, but before an answer can be cooked up, Barsjt charges ahead. During the long and hard fight it becomes clear that while the demon dwarves are irritating (swordmages with the aegis of assaultpower), the true threat comes from the two lightning ball spitting demons and the hell-caller demon-dwarf that was hiding in the metal statue. Of a particular surprise is the lightning backlash that Barsjt triggers when he finally manages to get on the balcony and hits one of the blue demons with his axe. It pushes him back over the edge, knocking him unconscious on the ground below. Luckily the three swordmages have been dealt with by this time, giving Adamar and to a lesser extend Snorri the opportunity to kill the two demons from a distance. Once they are gone, Sherabb and Barsjt finally manages to kill the hell-caller, although the dwarf proves to be equally adapt at range as in melee. Once again the Hunters manage to be grasp victory from the jaws of the defeat. Many things can be said off these determined men, but one thing is for sure, their stubbornness and unwillingness to accept defeat has garnered them more then one victory over the past few weeks.
[DM note: This was a level 9 encounter, and due to the lightning balls especially difficult. In the end only Barsjt ended up unconscious, but at the end of the fight all healing powers were used, and all PCs ended up at single digits. Luckily the PCs realized they needed to spread out relatively quickly or else things would have gone worse for them. Still, the fight ended with the PCs within inches of deaths and even the quick relatively long string of at-wills vs. basic attacks was still tense as a result.
It was the end of this fruitful and interesting session which once again showed that dice can still turn an on paper easy fight into a hard fight in practice…]