Despite rolling really well on his tracking check, Gareth had a hard time differentiating the thieves tracks from the parties tracks. It appears the thief was an elf, based on the size and type of soft boots worn, weight and (because he rolled so well) the pattern of his walk. But since Athan, also an elf, was on watch at the same time, the tracks were all mixed together. It did appear that a set of fresh tracks came out of the trap door and another set went into the trap door, suggesting that’s where the thief came from and went back to. The party was able to track up to a secret door in the hallway outside Falrinth’s room, just past where they had fought the illusory Basilisk.
The party went through the secret door and followed a tunnel several hundred feet to a ladder with a trap door above. The party went through the door to come to a dusty, trash filled room full of old cobwebs. A broom in the corner appears to have been used to cover the secret door as well as any tracks. Gareth was unable to track anything successfully after this point, but the party went forward in the hopes of running into a sign of the thief somewhere. Exploration of this dungeon level quickly revealed that they were on Level 3 of the Temple of Elemental Evil, as verified by a map they took from Falrinth’s quarters. The party went north through a door and came to a triangular room with four doors and stairs going up.
This was known as the “Chamber of Eyes” by the depictions of the symbol of the burning eye of fire (as seen previously on Lareth’s robes and others) and paintings of eyes, human, humanoid, and monstrous, all over the walls. Luapan was able to inform the party that the eye of fire (depicted either as a yellow flaming eye, or as a triangle with a Y inside it) are holy symbols associated with a mythological Elder Elemental God.
The party began searching rooms, and in the first room came across two bugbear leaders who were easily dispatched. In the next room they found 6 bugbears, also easily dispatched (everyone except Delvin has a really good AC at this point, and are subsequently very hard to hit by monsters of less than 10 hit dice).
The fight with the second set of bugbears generated enough noise to draw the attention of Scorpp, the Hill Giant in charge of these bugbears. Scorpp came out of his room with his pet warg, and carrying two large boulders ready to smash someone with, but otherwise seemed willing to talk. Athan engaged in conversation with Scorpp for a while, and was able to say a few things that tricked the giant (who was smarter than the usual Hill Giant, but not by much) into thinking he served the “Temple Mistress.” Through this deception, he was able to gain some valuable information, primarily that the levels above are the “lower temples” and the level below is the “Greater Temple” run by someone by the name of Hedrack, whom Scorpp seems to detest. Although Scorpp seemed very trusting of Athan while speaking to him, he was very leery of Pontus, Gareth and Luapan (Delvin and Sarril were invisible at the time). This eventually resulted in a breakdown of communication and a fight ensued, with Scorpp summoning four ogres from a nearby room to join the fray.
It was a difficult fight, but the party eventually prevailed, albeit extremely wounded and completely exhausted of spells. Because of this, the party made the difficult decision to break-off pursuit of the thief and return to the tower to recuperate. Before returning, Pontus and Gareth dragged the bodies around to make it look like the giant, bugbears and ogres had fought each other. The party also stripped the bodies of their loot, searched each of the rooms and took what few magic items they found, and removed the black cloaks with the Elder Elemental God symbols on them from the bugbears. Sarril identified a potion recovered from Scorpp’s room as a Potion of Red Dragon Control. The party then returned to the tower, using the broom in the trapdoor room to cover their tracks.
Upon returning to the tower, they found the front entrance to be covered in a thick black ooze, which Sarril was able to identify as Black Pudding. This particularly vicious substance is the worst of all of the jellies and oozes one can find. Only fire can affect it, and being a 10 hit dice monster, it takes a LOT of fire to get rid of it all. There was enough of the substance covering the entire entryway to make the party believe this was likely more than one such creature, all running together into one massive blob. The party quickly hatched a plan to ignite several bonfires to contain and destroy it, using Delvin’s “Affect Normal Fires” spell to accomplish this. The plan was successful in containing, but not completely destroying, all of the pudding as the fires had to be put out before causing the tower’s wooden support beams to collapse. The party then decided that the tower location has been compromised, and decided to move their headquarters to Falrinth’s chambers below, wherein Sarril was able to place a Wizard Lock on chamber doors to add further protection. While the rest of the party was resting, healing and recovering spells, Pontus decided to go back upstairs and collect some of the Black Pudding in a glass vial, figuring it may come into later use. The rest of the party warned him about how dangerous it would be to have a glass vial of such a corrosive substance carried on his person, but Pontus was confident that it is worth the risk to have something so useful.
It actually did prove useful the next day when the party explored a secret door they had found in the bugbear room that lead to a cell containing a troll and a very large iron key hanging from a massive iron chain affixed to a block of stone. Presumably because the party was wearing the temple robes, the troll did not attack, but did demand to be fed. The party fed the troll with the bodies of some of the bugbears while Pontus used a drop of the pudding to dissolve the chain holding the key. The party then discovered there were four of these troll/key rooms and repeated this process four times, coming into the possession of four large iron keys while simultaneously getting rid of all of the dead bodies from two days before.
At this point, the party decided to backtrack and head south from the original passage where they had entered the dungeon. This led to an interesting room full of statues of various monsters in a circle. Each statue seemed to be guarding a magic item of some type. Also in this room, providing an eerie light source, were four Wil-O-Wisps, which attacked the party once Athan begin investigating the magic items. With an AC of -8 and near complete magic immunity, the wisps proved to be too much for the party to fight. The good news is that they move very slow, so the party was able to run away into an adjoining room where the wisps did not follow.
This room was a virtual forest of fungus, with glowing mushrooms of all kinds. The voice of a woman called out to the party to be still, as some of the fungi in this room are incredibly toxic and will cause insanity. A beautiful woman glad in armor and carrying a short sword began winding her way in a pattern through the fungal forest toward the party. She attempted, and failed, to charm Pontus as she called out to Delvin to help her check the rest of the party for signs of infection. She then attacked Gareth. It was a quick and easy fight and as soon as the party defeated the warrior, the illusion she had placed on herself dropped, and they discovered she was actually a Lamia – a type of magical beast that has a woman’s torso, with the body of a horse and hind legs of a lion. Thanks to Gareth’s superior armor class, he was able to avoid her touch attack, which would have permanently drained him of his wisdom.
As we had already run an hour over our planned session time, we had to end it here, mid-dungeon. It is the morning of the 26th Day of Planting.