As the last clatter of their companion’s battle dwindled beyond the broken door, Dvallin and Rivyet were afforded a few moments to recuperate and assess their options. With two members of their party out of commission, the odds were not in the spellcasters’ favor. Feeling somewhat responsible for not providing a voice of reason amidst the torrent of foolish martial bravado that his comrades unleashed, Dvallin wished to stay. More importantly, however, a possibility remained that undead still roamed these ramparts and Kelemvor’s servant could not ignore that fact. Rivyet, being a bit more practical saw little point in risking their lives for a legend that may not even exist (especially in the face of ever increasing resistance). However, she was also aware that they likely couldn’t make it out of these catacombs alive without the fighter and ranger to take point in battle. Though the ettercaps took their companions deeper into the ruins, there still remained a large contingent of wererats at their backs.
The pair agreed to press on, with Dvallin taking the brunt of any melee attacks and allowing the warlock to unleash psychic horror unperturbed. Returning to the scene of the battle, the two followed the blood-soaked tracks of their party through the unexplored room from where the ettercaps first emerged. Ready for an onslaught of webbing and venom, the two were surprised to find nothing in the way of guards or resistance. All that remained was the continuing trail of blood leading towards a foreboding staircase.
Meanwhile, bearing both the bruises the gave each other and many new ones, the two headstrong warriors awoke in a small but relatively well appointed makeshift cell. Apparently their lives were worth more than their equipment, though that was nowhere to be found. Beings of some kind could be heard in the distance beyond the locked door, but nowhere close. Aedric’s keen eyes were able to make out the wooden bar which held fast their cell door. All it would take was something small enough to fit through the space in the door frame and lift the bar, and they would be free. A frantic assessment of the room ensued, but a table and iron-framed mattress were all that were available to the would-be rogues. The table legs were too large, but the strong, thin bars of the bed frame were a possibility. Drawing on their combined strength, the fighter and ranger mangled the frame but did not manage to free a bar before their racket was noticed by their captors. A guard shuffled to the door, and for a moment the unarmed pair stood breathless. However the guard seemed less convinced of their escape than annoyed by the cacophony they created. A few more hushed wrenches to the frame, and an iron bar was procured. Carefully the fighter balanced the wooden bar on his make-shift lockpick. One false move meant all elements of surprise would be forfeit. Luckily for the two bloodied prisoners, Aedric’s nerves won out and the wooden bar was carefully placed to the ground. Knowing that neither of them would survive without some sort of melee weapon, the two quietly dismantled the table and lashed a rope to the underside, fashioning a crude shield for Aedric and yielding a pair of clubs for the ranger. Though his sword still remained at large, Aedric paired his shield with the iron bar, and the two carefully crept from their confines into the circular top floor of the tower.
From several floors below, Dvallin and Rivyet did their best to make their presence unknown (no easy feat with the dwarf’s clattering enchanted armor punctuating every footstep). Luckily for them, the first group they came across were loud and drunken enough to let a paladin of Glittergold pass unnoticed. Several ettercaps and a fancily dressed gnome circled a barrel of spirits and carried on with little concern for the stairwell. However, the mirth within their drunken hearts was soon replaced with unspeakable horror as the floor went black about them and the nightmarish hellscape of creatures brought darkness to their eyes and tentacles to their flesh (courtesy of the pact betwixt Rivyet and Haddar). Figuring the be-robed gnome to be some sort of spellcaster and therefore the most unwieldy target, Dvallin charged into the room and pointed his finger to where he knew the tiny arcanist stood amidst the demonic chaos. A ray of light as thin as a needle but bright as a desert sun cut through the darkness, guided by the Kelemvor’s bony hand, and struck the gnome at center mass sending him to be judged in the world beyond. The ettercaps, confused as they were intoxicated, managed to stumble out of the engulfing blackness and make for the heroes. The pair laid waste to all but one of the ettercaps. That one met his end not by the words of a caster but by the point of a spear thrown by none other than the kobold that had been following them with Gollum-like tenacity for quite some time. The kobold identified himself as Skerg, and told the pair that their bravery against both the wererats and the unknown horrors of the catacombs had given him the courage to follow them. Being particularly impressed with Dvallin’s heroics, Skerg handed the dwarf a bit of parchment bearing the title which the kobold hoped to earn in the eyes of the dwarf: Squire. Mutually impressed with the gumption of this tiny reptilian warrior, Dvallin agreed to let Skerg join them in their quest to rescue their companions and see their journey to the end. Both heroes agreed that if the kobold had managed to follow them this far undetected, he should take the lead that the two might stay further back and retain some small measure of stealth.
While their friends continued upward having gained a new ally, Aedric and Darcaryn put their differences aside and made their way into the top of the tower, ready to take their captors unaware. Though they had naught but their smallclothes to armor them, this allowed them to proceed forward undetected and get the drop on one of their jailors. A short search of the tower’s apex revealed a room full of training gnomes whose defeat necessitated only the human’s strong words and the pair’s frighteningly savage appearance. Their efforts in intimidation were justly rewarded, as this chamber contained not only a king’s ransom in gnome piss, but their weapons and armor as well. Taking a brief pause only to suit up and catch their breath, the two proceeded to make their way downward only to find a cadre of arachnoid creatures ranging from humanoid to…not so much. Though they now had their weapons in hand, the silken treachery of their foes overtook them once again, pinning Aedric to the wall and blocking Darcaryn from making her way down the staircase from which they had emerged. Rather than using this as an opportunity to knock each others’ teeth out, however, the ranger cut Aedric loose and the two retreated back the way they came and took to the the spiral staircase whose existence meant more than just their continued survival.
Having slaked their thirst for the blood of arachnoid people, Skerg, Dvallin, and Rivyet proceeded further up the tower, eventually coming to a crimson curtain which the warlock noticed glimmered with arcane energy. Seeing no other threat and unable to discern what manner of trap this might represent, Dvallin passed through the barrier only to emerge naked as the day Moradin made him on the other side. Skerg, upon passing through, was similarly disarmed and disrobed. Deciding that it would be better to shed her belongings and know where they were, Rivyet stripped down in an epic act of fanservice and proceeded through the barrier naked but unchanged. Just as the awkwardness of the moment was about to really sink in, a pair of human wizards emerged from the room adjacent to the adventurers and proceeded to both impede and ridicule them simultaneously. Though they seemed to have no animosity towards the group, they seemed to be well paid for their arcane guard duties and would not let the heroes pass at first. However, between the dwarf’s steely resolved to see all undead obliterated and Rivyet’s charms (both arcane and mammary), the group managed to convince the wizards that they were in fact not after whatever they were protecting. Furthermore, Rivyet highlighted just how thoroughly their talents were wasted playing watchmen for their master Thorin. Realizing that greater fortune awaited them with treachery than with blind obedience, the wizards returned the magically stolen equipment to the dwarf and kobold, leaving Rivyet the only one naked for a short while longer.
Meanwhile, Aedric and Darcaryn’s retreat and subsequent descent yielded not the freedom they sought, but an suspiciously out of place old man amidst a setting that rang true with the Analects our heroes had taken in what seemed like ages ago. Further inquiry revealed this being to not be an old man, but an Oni both great and terrible. As the creature grew to epic proportions, further flight down the staircase seemed the only viable option. Before the pair departed, though, the human left a parting gift for the great demon in the form of a vicious head wound that left the creature stunned for just long enough for them to make their escape. However, it seemed that the descent down the spiral stair wouldn’t provide the sanctuary they were after. Though the two had managed to evade the Oni’s claws, they had traded them for a feasting table full of ettercaps whose meal had just gotten underway. The first course had been finished, and it would seem that Aedric and Darcaryn were to be the second.
Just below them, however, an arcane alliance of ever expanding membership had just made their way into a kitchen full of busy kobolds being overseen by yet another dangerously overqualified wizard. This time, however, our heroes knew what to expect and managed to convince the arcane task-master to set aside his duties as lead chef and join his companions in taking what was truly theirs from Thorin. No sooner had the prospect of battle left the room and a shank of animal entered Dvallin’s mouth, though, Aedric and Darcaryn exploded from above with no small amount of hell at their backs. Stunned faces gave way to excited grins as the party had been reunited at last. Their joy would be short-lived however, as the full force of their captors gathered just a few dozen paces above them….