Our session begins with the magic-user and elves hooking up with the Advisor to swap spells. The magic-user, now 3rd level, picks up the Web spell. The elves picked up a couple of missing 1st-level spells. The thief was nowhere to be found, so the party heads out. Bruce the Ogre was still recovering from the orc beating he took a couple of sessions ago, as well.
Returning to the Caves, the party decides to finish clearing out the owlbear cave, where the previous session ended. This time going right they come upon a shallow pool of clear water with a gem-encrusted cup lying on the bottom. The male elf quickly doffs his armor and ties a rope around his waist so he can go dunking for treasure. But before diving into the pool, he notices some movement along the ceiling of the cave. No one else in the party sees anything…just before a grey ooze drops on the magic-user’s arm. Another drops into the pool (missing the elf by a wide margin).
Having prepared by bringing an abudnance of cheap, heavy sticks and branches with them, the party sets about beating the crap out of the oozes. The dwarf gets a good swing in on the ooze covering the magic-user’s arm…breaking said arm in the process. In the chaos, another ooze drops down right next to the male elf, narrowly missing him. After that, the party makes quick work of the oozes, beating them with crude clubs. The MU binds his wounds, and sets his arm while the elf retrieves the bejeweled cup (worth quite a bit of gold, actually). They decide to return to the Keep so the magic-user can heal his arm.
At the Keep the magic-user complains bitterly about making a paltry 50 gp offering to the Curate for the benefit of a Cure Light Wounds spell to heal his arm, until he realizes it’ll take weeks for the arm to heal naturally (mind you, the party has looted thousands of gp in treasure by now). Rested and recuperated, the party heads back out again the next day.
This time they pick a cave just above the owl-bear lair. Passing into the cave, the two elves immediately become confused and disoriented, though the MU and dwarf are unaffected. Off to their right they hear the hooting and screeching of many agitated birds, so they opt to go left instead. They quickly navigate their way to a large cavern filled with piles of arranged bones, obviously the lair of something big and nasty. Shuttering their lantern, the dwarf and elves spot a towering minotaur with their infravision, which immediately bellows a challenge and charges. The dwarf roars in response and charges in to meet the minotaur. A heroic fight ensues, wherein the dwarf gets his butt kicked and he falls back.
At this point the party is in fairly dire straights. Their front-line fighter is nearly dead, and the two elves are disoriented and probably won’t be able to find their way out. The magic-user could be easily killed in a single volley of attacks from the minotaur, and so is staying far back. In desperation the dwarf starts drinking random, unidentified potions, hoping that one of them will heal him. The first is actually poison (fortunately he made his save); the second is a potion of invisibility!
Unsure of whether to fight or flee, the magic-user casts phantasmal force, creating an illusion of four ogres charging in to attack the minotaur. This distracts the minotaur for a couple of rounds, giving the party time to reorganize. The invisible dwarf sneaks around the minotaur and starts pouring flasks of oil all over the place, hoping to create a conflagration that will trap and consume the minotaur, followed by each elf, and the magic-user, all casting charm person on the minotaur, and all failing (I was uncertain whether charm person should work on a minotaur, but decided to let them try it…turns out the minotaur made all its saving throws anyways).
At this point the party has fired most of its big guns. The minotaur is wounded, but hardly out of the fight. The male elf slings arrow after arrow at the beast; the magic-user fires off a magic missile but then is left with firing his crossbow; the dwarf is still pouring oil all over the place, and the female elf starts throwing flasks of oil directly at the minotaur, followed by lit torches (much to the consternation of the dwarf). Eventually the minotaur is set on fire, weakening it severely, and the party is able to bring the mighty beast down. One of the elves finds a secret stash at the back of the cave, filled with considerable loots (including plate mail +1, a spear +1 and a staff of healing, which they currently cannot use).
Again, they return to the Keep to consolidate their gains and heal their wounds. The next day, they return to the minotaur’s labyrinth, this time experiencing no disorienting magic when they enter. They quickly dispatch some fire beetles and about a dozen stirges (which surprised me; stirges are usually nasty, nasty monsters for 1 HD; but once again, sleep proves its utility). They also discovered that the corpse of the minotaur was missing, a trail of blood and gore leading up to the highest cave. This isn’t the first time they’ve noticed that corpses and bodies have gone missing around the Caves… (Muhahahahaha!).
At first the party seemed ready to follow the trail straight in to the highest, furthest back (and therefore, most dangerous) cave, but opted instead to check out the only other remaining cave (visible to them, anyways). They find a small lair of gnolls, most of them easily dispatched. Moving to the back of the gnoll lair, they force their way into the chief’s room. Just as combat was about to start, the magic-user cast charm person on the chief, gaining a new BFF. Even though the chief tells the gnolls that the party members are friends, his two bodyguards are deeply suspicious of the party and stay on their guard.
This time it seems the party isn’t much interested in having a powerful monster ally, so they concoct a crazy story about gnoll usurpers trying to kill the chief. They’re hoping the chief will send his guards to investigate so they can get the chief alone and massacre him. The chief, instead, sends his female mates to investigate. After they leave, the party barricades the door, telling the chief it’s for his protection. This, of course, only makes the guards even more suspicious of the party. Once the door is barricaded, the party drops pretenses and attacks the chief’s bodyguards. They attempt to pass it off as protecting the chief from ‘assassins’, but what they don’t know that the ‘bodyguards’ are in fact the chief’s sons; thus they break the chief’s charm and the fight is on!
The gnoll chief turns his full wrath on the magic-user that charmed him, nearly killing the spellcaster with a single attack. The male elf steps in, pushing the magic-user back out of the way. A general melee breaks out, with bodyguards, chief and party exchanging wild blows. In a completely uncharacteristic act, the female elf attacks the chief (wielding the magic spear taken from the minotaur), trying to draw the chief off the magic-user and other elf (normally this player stays in the back, attacking from range, playing it as safe as possible). A couple of vicious blows later, the female elf lays dead (and I forgot to roll on the 50 Ways to Die chart 😦 ). After that the party quickly finishes the chief and his guards. The gnoll females, hearing the commotion through the barricaded door, flee for their lives. They party finds some gold, but no magic.
We called it a night after that. Upon their return to the Keep the party meets a new cleric, eager to join them for adventure and glory (and probably an early grave, too).
There are only two unexplored caves remaining, though one of them is hidden and unlikely to be discovered by the party. That just leaves the biggest, baddest cave of all. And they’ll soon discover just what’s been happening to all those disappearing corpses. 😉