Especially for fights in cramped hallways.
After chasing off the hellcat, the party faced their biggest challenge yet -- a narrow hallway with a five-foot wide pressure plate that they had to jump over. Altei jumped across first, but when he backed up to give Elsie room to join him, he backed right into the middle of a crossfire, as enemies were lurking to either side.
To the left was a room, where Ripnugget had found another warchanter, and magic-missiled Altei while the 'chanter cast Hold Person. To the right, Nulia showed herself at the end of a hallway, but let one of her howling dog-creatures charge in and bite, first. Altei was technically not surprised by this two-pronged assault, but he was paralyzed by a Hold Person spell, so it really didn't matter.
Zakhar tossed a healing bomb on her to try to keep her from dying before the rest of the party could join her, and Ash leapt across the trap and bull-rushed him into an alcove past the intersection to get her out of the line of fire. Kaito jumped into the intersection in his place, stabbing at the hound, first, hoping to take it down before it could howl, but unable to do that in a single attack.
Elsie leapt into the fray as well, rushing into the room to try to finally kill Ripnugget. And she might have, if Stickfoot (his lizard) hadn't sacrificed himself to protect him.
At that point, Nulia decided to enter the battle, doing an amazing flip over Kaito's head to flank him with the hound, and stabbing him powerfully with a bastard sword. He flew into a rage and finished off the hound, but knew that his armor couldn't repel firepower of that magnitude.
Meanwhile, Elsie continued to shake off the warchanter's attempts to disable her, and punched Ripnugget a lot -- but he was tougher than he acted, and stood up to her usually-fatal abuse. Zakhar tried to get into position to use his bombs, but had to take an AoO to do so and then nearly ran into yet another possible combatant lurking in wait around a corner. He pretended not to see her, since the last thing they needed was more enemies joining the fight.
Altei finally shook off his paralysis, and hid behind the statue in the alcove to get a sneak-attack off at Nulia. Nulia panicked, and set off a massive burst of negative energy, damaging everyone around, friend and foe alike, to heal herself. Much of the party was already pretty badly damaged by then, so it wasn't looking good. Zakhar -- the only healer, since Phoof was out of spells -- took enough damage from the burst to knock him out, unconscious and dying.
Unfortunately for her, it also demoralized her allies. The remaining dog (in the room with Ripnugget) retreated to a corner and cowered, while Ripnugget had his warchanter turn him invisible so that he could run away again.
That let Elsie focus on Nulia, and Ash also got a good hit in with her axe, channeling a powerful cold spell to damage and stagger her. There wasn't room for anyone else to attack (Kaito had backed off a bit and now had several people between him and her, so he worked on healing Zakhar instead), so Nulia had one more chance to try to save herself, by draining Elsie's life with her giant claw...
But Elsie made her save, and the punching and stabbing continued, this time finishing Nulia off. The warchanter was taken down shortly afterwards, after casting a silence spell to make it impossible for anyone to detect Ripnugget as he made his escape. The other lurking enemy continued to lurk, and in fact was nowhere to be found. It was over.
Nulia had a lot of magical equipment, although most of it couldn't be identified. Most of it got shoved in Phoof's haversack for later appraisal and sale, but a few choice items were claimed immediately -- in particular, Val claimed a seven pointed amulet that seemed like it had given Nulia the ability to heal herself with the negative burst.
The room Ripnugget had been waiting in was full of journals detailing the planned attack on Sandpoint, as well as Nulia's plans for afterwards -- she'd planned to burn it to the ground, and sacrifice all the residents' souls to Lamashtu in return for completing her transformation. As if they needed more evidence that she was the bad guy.
Down the hallway was a strange room shaped like a wide, bent corridor, with a huge pile of gold coins and bars nearly filling the near end, and a sent of menacing double doors at the far end.
The menace failed to deter Val, who had Ash and Altei shove it open, and then boldly walked into the room full of sarcophagi beyond, at which point she was attacked by shadows. They closed that door back up really fast.
The gold, meanwhile, attracted some of the others. Kaito and Elsie just wanted to swim in it -- it was obviously illusionary and/or cursed, and the coins couldn't actually be removed from the pile at any rate -- but Zakhar looked more closely, and found a pair of hidden coin slots set to either side. He and Kaito each put a real gold coin into the slots, and the pillar at the end of the room, behind the gold, rotated into the ground, revealing a very very dusty chamber beyond.
Ash tried to clear up the dust with a Gust of Wind spell. That... didn't work. Unless she wanted to create an opaque, choking cloud of dust completely filling the room, in which case it worked perfectly.
Despite the dust, the party advanced into the hidden area, but got split up. Zakhar, Altei, and Phoof ended up in a room full of surgical implements (which Zakhar pocketed) with a large seven-pointed... thing. Ash, Kaito, and Val instead found a locked door, sealed with wax, with the imprint of a large seven-pointed star on it. Once they compared notes, how could they not put the key into the lock?
As the seals broke, and the doors scraped open, Phoof suddenly remembered something from the journals they'd found just a little earlier. "Don't open the door! It's the prison of Makeshnikor!"
Zakhar, the only one actually in front of the door to open it while the rest of the party hid around corners, saw a giant humanoid face attached to a massive canine body rise out of the flames. He took a step back and slammed the door closed, turning and putting his back to it -- only to find himself face to face with the creature, now free.
While the party tried to fight the massive creature, Phoof ran for it, trying to find Elsie, who'd wandered off chasing an invisible creature that she swore she'd spotted with her blindfighting senses. She eventually found her on the stairs up to the level above, pinning the female wizard that Kaito had stabbed a while back, who'd been trying to run away.
Phoof: "Elsie, you have to come back! They've released Malkeshnikor!"
At the mention of the name, the wizard froze. "You found Malkeshnikor? We've been searching for him for ages! Nulia was obsessed with releasing him to destroy her enemies."
Phoof: "How do we stop him?"
The wizard looked shaken. "You don't."
Back at the fight, Val decided that since this creature had been sealed behind a seven pointed star, the seven-pointed amulet would help, and put it on. She was suddenly filled with rage... and lust. For Malkeshnikor. "If you stop fighting my friends, you and I could get to know each other..."
Malkeshnikor, for his part, seemed charmed by her somehow. "Then tell them to stop attacking me!"
"You bit me first!" complained Zakhar, but he backed off, which meant backing into the room that Malkeshnikor had been trapped in. Kaito and Ash also backed off.
"So..." Ash said. "I don't think we can really fight off a giant demon dog, especially without Elsie. Time to run?"
"Sounds good to me," Kaito agreed. "I'm... kind of out of rage, and really tired now. Val, you'll run too, right?"
Altei, however, had no intention of backing off and letting an evil like Malkeshnikor loose on the world. He poisoned his katana, and stabbed him in the butt. That made him REALLY MAD.
While he was mauling her, Ash turned to run, as per the plan... and got as far as the trap, at which point Phoof stopped her. Physically. "Where do you think you're going?!"
Ash: "I'm getting out of here. I'm a legitimate businessman, not a hero."
Elsie: "Well, I'm going back to fight. Can you keep watch over the prisoner, at least?"
Ash agreed, reluctantly -- at least she could retie the pathetic knots Elsie had made trying to tie up the wizard.
So Phoof and Elsie ran back to the secret chamber, where Val had NOT run, instead screaming in rage at Altei for hitting her boyfriend, and Kaito had stayed behind, confused -- not attacking, but stepping in to yank the now-unconscious and dying Altei out of the beast's mouth. Phoof was able to stabilize him, while Elsie ran in to punch.
It turned out that a lot of Malkeshnikor's reputation was bluster and exaggeration -- he was a Bhargest, but hadn't yet eaten anyone to really power up, and having Altei yanked out of his mouth cancelled his best hope of turning things around. Between Kaito and Elsie, he went down before he could kill anyone else.
By that point, however, everyone was very, very tired. And very out of useful spells. Since their main enemy was dead, and Ripnugget had run away again, they decided it would be plausible to try to get some rest before searching the rest of the level, or trying to extract themselves from the dungeon with the hellcat and the other enemies they'd bypassed still waiting behind them.
The wizard had also gotten away. "Sorry," Ash said, "We got to talking, and I let down my guard enough for her to punch me and escape. I did get her wand first, though."
No one actually fell for that, but no one had any particular reason to want the cowardly wizard dead, so as long as she kept running, that was fine.
Running away in D+D is always really tricky. I'm sure I've seen a couple of groups manage it, but most of the time it just kind of fails like it did this time.
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