As we began the 7th session of this adventure, Aram the lawful cleric had taken possession of the Frosthammer of Graki Deathstalker. The PCs had looted (to the extent that they could) the Vault of the Frosthammer and the associated treasure room. The PCs consisted of:
Denny: 2nd level Thief
Clave: 2nd level Warrior
Vane: 2nd level Warrior
Abel: 1st level Wizard
Banvha: 1st level Halfling
Aram: 1st level Cleric
Vergil: 1st level Warrior
Klaus: 1st level Thief
Doug: 1st level Warrior
Chuck: 1st level Warrior
Formerly Ian: 1st level Wizard
Morfans: 1st level Dwarf
Everyone showed up for this session, so we were rolling with a large PC contingent. Resistance was futile before their might. Nonetheless, Van managed to get himself nearly killed a whole bunch of times.
The first thing that they did was to return from the Vault. They decided that the urchins and the characters not running with the party this session would loot the Vault and take the treasure up to the main temple. Denny the Thief decided that he'd skin some of the dead giant snake for later, and someone else took snake teeth. There was some discussion of just taking the Eyes of The Serpent and heading back to Ur-Hadad, but a combination of greed, murder-hoboism, and a tiny amount of concern for humanity got them to stay around. They decided to explore the passage leading east from the room with the Vault entrance in it.
The way east was blocked with a cell-style barred gate. They proceeded through it and discovered a 4-way intersection a feet yards further on. To the east was a barred gate, beyond which were two of those giant lizards with the brillant blue and yellow striped hide. There was also a nest of eggs. A few potshots were taken, and then fire was applied liberally through the use of Flaming Hands. It worked out fabulously. One Spike Lizard was killed outright, and the other fled down the passage to the east. At this point, Denny decided to go check for more treasure, finding 1d6 Spike Lizard eggs. The number was 6. Those could be fun later.
Another portion of the party proceeded to the south, finding a passage ending in a cave-in, and containing a nest of these guys (7 of them):
Claw Wyrm of Sssaa'a
Init +1; Atk claw +3 melee (1d8+1) or sting +3 melee (1d6); AC 13; HD 1d10+2; MV 20’; Act 2d20+1d20; SP If it manages to hit with both claw attacks, it will use its Sting- if it makes a successful sting attack, target must make DC 13 Fort save or take 1d4 damage and be paralyzed for 1d6 rounds; SV Fort +1, Ref +1, Will +0; AL N.
These guys were both unlucky and lucky in the encounter. The Claw Worms were pretty tough, and the party didn't roll particularly well. As a result, Vane got nailed a couple of times, as did others. Vane took the most damage of all. The were lucky in that the Claw Worms failed to get a sting attack against anyone. Eventually, a combination of fire, melee and missile damage did the trick, and the foes were vanquished.
They went back the intersection and headed north. By this time, Denny and Klaus had finished with the Spike Lizard nest and found the gorge-side entrance partly hidden by the waterfall. Denny had disarmed a trap, and was prepared to open a door he'd found to the north. The party opened the door and found 12 of the villagers, the only remaining group of the hundreds taken by the Serpentkin. The village of Samsara has been much depleted by their losses. The party sent the villagers topside to wait for the trip back.
Before leaving, the villagers warned that a Hunter Automaton was nearby, through a door in the same chamber. The door was locked, and controlled by a panel with four buttons on it. I let the party mess around with it for a while, but eventually they found the "open" combination, and the door did a Star Trek "whoosh" to open into a wide corridor. Only one Hunter Automaton was here, and they managed to dispatch it before it did much damage. They opened the next door, and entered a very strange chamber.
Here's the description:
These are holding cells of bizarre design, made of jade glass and black metal. Inside of each one is a black metal table with a vaguely humanoid depression in it. Some tables lay flat, and some are elevated. Each has an integral system of manacles and other restraints.
3-6a: This cell has been damaged, and the "glass" portions are shattered in their frames, but the glass hasn't spilled out onto the floor. There are signs of fire within the chamber, and a charred, dwarven skeleton. Close examination will reveal that the skeleton is heavily infused with black metal.
3-6b through 3-6d: This cell is empty. The front of it consists of an empty doorway in the shape of a long, hexagonal lozenge. Peculiar knobs of black metal protrude from the inner frame of the doorway at intervals of about six inches, all the way around.
3-6e through 3-6f: Holds a human being, immobilized by restraints, and surrounded by a greenish glowing aura. The victim's eyes blaze with greenish yellow light, and plasma of the same color arcs like flailing whips around the interior. Whereas the fronts of the empty chambers are open, a glowing wall of pure magical force blocks the entrances of these chambers, and the metal knobs blaze with whitish-green energy, crackling almost like lightning. Any attempt to touch this will cause 1d8 damage, though a DC 15 Fort save will reduce damage by half.
The human prisoners are undergoing the first stage of conversion into Hunter Automata, wherein their bones and sinews are infused with black metal.
So, the first thing that happen was that Vane decided to break the glass on one of the active chambers. He make a saving through, and took only half damage as a mighty gout of greenish-white plasma vented through the hold and out of the chamber, pretty much right in his face. He took a lot of damage (again), but not enough to kill him. This guy is running low on Stamina, though, due to repeated... miscalculations.
The other PCs figured out that you could turn off the active chambers by pressing the lighted buttons, and shut down the other one. The prisoner was beyond help at this point, with metallic bones and sinews, and the beginnings of a bizarre, ophidian transformation. They killed them, of course.
So, at this point, the party has pretty much explored the lower levels. It took a little while, but they remembered that there was more of Level 2 that they haven't seen. Could it hold the secrets of the temple? Will they be able to derail the fell machinations of the Serpentkin? Only time can tell.
Oh, and speaking of time, the Hourglass poison is still active in their systems. They've been gone about 10 days at this point, and only have about 20 days to finish their business, return to Ur-Hadad, and seek the antidote. There's also the small matter of what to do with the chest of platinum bars they left on the ship sitting back at Samsara's wharf. The man they were to pay, Balas Forktongue, is dead. So, who gets paid? There are 50,000 gp worth of platinum bars (and this world is on a silver standard). It seems like they've had an incredible windfall, doesn't it? Surely Amor Ba'Gish, the wizard who has employed them, would understand if they kept it for themselves, wouldn't he? Surely he is the soul of generosity, and would agree that they'd earned it, once they return with the The Eyes of The Serpent. Of course he would.
So, next time we'll see if the PCs can avert the unseen apocalypse that's about to be released on an unsuspecting world. Or maybe they'll fuck it all up, and we'll be hip deep in Serpentkin bent on conquest, thereby reversing the man's ascent, and throwing into doubt the true power of the Metal Gods. That would be... unfortunate.