The evening sees Xilali, the team’s resident druid, druidically attempting to gain entrance to the Goblin Market, a black market that specializes in illicit wares (and druidic bobbles, presumably). Although she has no luck conniving her way past the guards, Xilali makes the cordial acquaintance of a shady fellow, who introduces himself as bearing the name Shady, a thin man with a thinner smile.
The exchange concludes with Xilali’s pockets 100 gold pieces lighter, yet richer one Scroll of “Scorching Ray,” with which she can target up to three enemies in an attempt to burn them to cinders. The slim, shady fellow named Shady also leaves her with an offer: to look for him if the mood strikes her.
Satisfied that her errand is concluded, Xilali recalls as certain reward, promised by a powerful wizard, that was never actually given. The druid errant is making her way back to Maestro’s Magical Mansion when a drunk but full-of-purpose Erdan Galanodel erupts from a nearby bush with the same heading.
Having convinced himself of the bitter demise no doubt awaiting the adventuring party on their imminent adventure, Erdan sought solace by drowning his doubts in the bitter beverages available at the Mug & Cauldron (Voted Stilttown’s #1 Drinking Establishment!). It was during this bings that inspiration struck the elf: solve problems by throwing books at them!
And so, Xilali and Erdan found themselves climbing the hill to Maestro’s Magnificent Manor, one seeking monetary recompense, and the other a library. Upon their arrival, the pair is greeted not by the home’s master, but by a frog of a manservant who did not so much speak his words as he did belch them in the direction of anyone unfortunate enough to be caught within earshot. Informing the elves that his master was otherwise indisposed, our heroes found themselves disposed, rather unceremoniously, in Maestro’s library, while the manservant fetched his master.
Erdan eagerly pores over the books at his disposal, while Xilali attempts to eavesdrop through the locked door. She makes out little more than a cacophony of guttural banter, stressed yelps, and a chorus of shit-is-going-down-in-this-laboratory bangs and rumbles (and something about a wall coming down), and soon, the manservant manbeast returns. Though he is a little worn, he notifies Xilali, cordially, that Maestro, with all due respect, does not have time for our shit. The rewards (which contain coins, a magical scroll of armor-enhancement for Vort, and a some magical scroll that looks like they were raided from a dustbin for Erdan) are rather unceremoniously dumped on our intrepid heroes as they are shown the door.
Their true prize, Erdan notes, is knowledge, as now he knows how to open the vault that contains the Cabiri Kaiju Crusher on any day he damn well pleases. No more waiting for the first solstice of every year for us! The literal maelstrom of fire that resides on the vault’s inside, however, will still pose a problem.
Their gear packed, all of our brave adventurers gather at the edge of Stilttown, along with the eighteen half-orcs and the shamen that Gnasha provided us, to plan their attack. The clever ruse will be to attack the yuan-ti fortress with the company of orcs, while a smaller group slips into the fortress and attempts to apprehend the enemy shaman and prevent him from completing his ritual to allow the yuan-ti access to the vault and safe passage through the scorching smelter therein.
Faced with the option to either enter through the front door of the fortress, or to sneak in through a treacherously gravelly hole in the back, our heroes wisely conclude that they are least likely to be noticed by the enemy by walking in through the large entrance gates. A short boat-ride, and a helpful resist poison + resist fire spell from Gnasha’s shaman, later and the company finds themselves crossing a large bridge crossing a moat to the fortress.
But what’s this?! The bring begins to rattle and rock and roll violently! At this point, literally everyone falls into the ditch except Erdan, who only has a moment to wonder if perhaps it isn’t everyone else who was drunk before the arrows start flying. The yuan-ti were ready, and had set up an ambush, attempting to a-bridge the mission just as it began. Cursing their luck, the heroes (and a number of half-orcs) make it to the shore and start, as the half-orcs say, “wrecking house” while the secondary strike team of Erdan, Xilali, six half-orc warriors and an elite half-orc leader slip into the fortress proper, and make their way down to the shaman’s chambers.
He isn’t there! Unable to locate the shaman in his room, strike team (henceforth refered to as “the important team”) expand their search to the vault chaber proper, where they find the shaman absorbed in his ritual and flanked by his two huge, domesticated death-caterpillars whom he will no doubt soon surf into battle not unlike Madame Medusa from The Resuers. About to attack, Xilali halts the party by noticing a small, hidden staircase up to the vault-chambers balcony… a staircase with a yuan-ti at the top!
Combat begins, and the half-orc leader, whom we had previously assumed to just be a Fighter Barbarian of some kind, immediately reveals he has actually taken a few levels in the newly-released Iron Chef class by charging up the stairs like a wrecking ball and dicing the yuan-ti into a delicious snake-fillet with a side of whoop-ass and a light glaze of “I did over 32 damage in one turn and now this yuan-ti is dead.”
Of course, there are more yuan-ti around the corner, up on the balcony proper, and before long, there’s a real fight a-happenin’! Erdan manages to put a yuan-ti to sleep with his enchantment magic (at which point the orc leader tears it’s head off) while Xilali shoots herself in the arm with her bow (part of an elaborate ruse, no doubt) before switching tact and simply wailing on yuan-ti with her quarterstaff while healing up the half-orc leader.
Sensing an imminent defeat (along with resurging abandonment issues) the final yuan-ti catapults himself off of the balcony and knocks the shaman out of his trance. With a yelp and a cliche, the shaman sics his domesticated death-caterpillars on the intruders. As luck would have it, WE are the intruders, and before long the party is tangoing with acid-spewing, ground-burrowing, dozens-of-creepy-legs-grappling-the-shit-outta-you monsters while the shaman and the last yuan-ti attempt to flee the scene.
Seeing the two miscreants attempting to fly the coop, Erdan decides to heroically catapult himself off of the balcony in order to get a clear shot to cast a spell. Everyone agrees that it’s an incredibly brave thing to do, Erdan gets the begrudging respect of every half-orc in the room, and a thousand miles away a bard is even inspired to write a song about the event. Really, you had to be there. Unfortunately, reality immediately sets in, and Erdan doesn’t even make it off of the balcony because the caterpillar monster grapples him with its attack-of-opportunity, causing the elf to fall on his ass and be covered in acidic goo. Which isn’t quite as glorious as it could have been.
The shaman’s escape is complicated, however, when he is confronted by an intercepting Xilali, who transforms into a dire wolf and attempts to block his path! Sensing a mystical challenge, the shaman transforms too! The shaman morphs into a monitor lizard, and the two nature adepts engage in a Druid Duel™! The fight is short, and eventually the shaman surrenders to Xilali’s superior prowess.
With the fight over, the half-orcs and elves briefly lick their wounds with some magical healing, and after casting a few Cure Light Wounds, Xilali turns to the now-surrendered shaman.
“Why are you working with the yuan-ti to open this dangerous vault?”
“Opening the vault? What do you mean? I’m renewing the wards to keep it shut!”
In an internal poll
All descriptions of the manservant are presented in Erdan-o-vision
Yuan-ti is actually a Sylvan word which translates, roughly, to “giant fucking demon-snake” in common
Told you so
Sadly, there is no surfing involved
I mean, it was nowhere near as cool as Erdan throwing himself off of the balcony. Even though Erdan didn’t even succeed in doing that. We definitely didn’t both immediately shout “OH MY GOD THIS IS SO AWESOME!” when the shaman transformed, nor were we talking about the druid duel for the next half-hour even after the game concluded. Definitely not.
Okay, fine, it was fucking incredible and you had to be there. Seriously, the look on our faces was nothing short of “dumbfoundmazement” and may eve have been one of the greatest D&D moments of our campaign.