Deciding not to "throw good money after bad" the PC adventurer's party did not run to the aid of the beleaguered 'Keep on the Borderland' guards. Perhaps there had been too much "us and them" and not enough "we're all in this together" during the weeks of the siege. Perhaps it was the notion of a dozen plus Orcs at the top of the stairs and someone remembering that the Caves of Chaos also had a small tribe of Bugbears stunted any real consideration of stopping and fighting it out. The party elected to put as much distance a possible between the them and the 'nasty monsters'. Fumbling their way forward with the Elf and Dwarf at the lead (DM's Note: That 'almost seeing in the dark thing' these races have - was I right about Elves hating being underground?) the party took another meandering side passage out of hope more than plan. Then "ooops" ... your typical party conundrum, a dodgy looking DM style 'trap or encounter'? Do we 'rush' [increasing the danger] or do we play it 'cautious' [wasting time] (see below):
A large growth of underground fungus with what seemed to be a 'treasure chest' in its midst. The characters were less interested in the notion of the 'treasure chest' than trying to figure a way around it 'quickly'. The Dwarf also thought (as he technically was an NPC I allowed him a helpful reflective moment from his past adventures) they were "Shriekers" in amongst the fungus and recommended the party climb around the danger spot, venturing the fact he saw a climbing route and useful ledge to the wall on their right. Off went the Dwarf to the ledge ready to help the rest of the party (rolling well I may add on his thief ability). The (female) Cleric then stripped off her armour to the embarrassment of her male colleagues apart from the Dwarf how shouted "Nice Rack" (parents can explain to children) in Common Tongue. An now 'angry' Cleric then really badly fumbled her dexterity roll and came crashing down onto the mushroom patch, setting off a green cloud of spores and also causing the "Shriekers" to start to wail (see below):
(DM's note: Well I laughed!) Four small "Mushroom Men" emerged from the fungi garden to attack the Cleric (see below). She fought one round of combat alone before her comrades in arms rushed to the scene while the Dwarf lobbed the last of the parties oil stock onto the "Shriekers" and set fire to them. The combat was short and sweet for the party, overgrown mushrooms proving no match for these hardy adventurers. (DM's note: I hope you can feel a tang pf my disappointment here, even the hapless Cleric made her saving throw versus the spores). The fire burned ferociously clearing the area revealing ....
... a hidden secret/concealed exit (a very rough some would say burrowed exit leading "down" - always a bad sign in the dungeon when the only way seems to be down) as well as the charred but unopened treasure chest (see picture below). Now I had/have a reputation as a DM for not 'giving' bundles of money and treasure away. Characters had to earn it in my games, none of this 10,000 GP and a +1 Sword for killing a HobGoblin and his cat (even if it was 2HD, spat fireballs and regenerated .. a story for another time). So the player characters bypassed both chest (dismissively) and secret passageway (as sounding far too dangerous). Whereas the Dwarven Thief lingered and played with the locks, detecting and disarming the traps, finally picking the lock and having a careful 'nose' at what was inside. The party had moved on and he just 'put the things in his leather back pack (remember those) for safe keeping' with a wry smile to himself. Part of the this disinterest can also be explained by the fact that the Ranger had picked up a fresh trail of a solitary human(oid?) that had recently come this way (a small mystery being how he/she/it had cunningly avoided the fungus patch). Could this be the Evil MU they were after? The party set off in hot pursuit.
Some 200' on they came to another sight that made them pause for thought. The doors of a pit-trap hung open, as the PC's cautiously peeped over edge they saw a 'heavily webbed' (as in large spider type) dark, black pit, with the hapless figure of said 'Evil MU' caught in it. Two largish spiders were scuttling near him and he made imploring eye-contact with the party. The two D&D'ers looked at me incredulously and hanging back from the lip of the pit-trap they started discussing what to do. Meanwhile the Dwarf caught up with the rest of the party. Failed a Wisdom test (DM's note: Well after all he was a NPC still) and looked over the edge at the Evil MU. Something along the lines of "I could do with a little help here" was said to the Dwarf, a dice was rolled by me, and the Dwarf replied "You sure do" and popped over the side of the pit, dagger in hand to fight the large spiders. To I may add the incredulity of the two players and rest of the NPCs in the party. They had never seen the Dwarven Thief so brave and then the penny clicked (DM's note: Charm Person spell, see below for the state of affairs).
It was late and there was a certain cumbersome farce to the combat. The player characters could not dissuade the thief from his heroism. The spiders attacked the thief. The PC's threw rocks and arrows at the spiders and the Evil MU. The result being the Evil MU was hit by a large rock which hurt him and knocked him further down to the pit (out of sight). A large spider was killed and another chased off, but not before it had paralyzed the thief. A fracas broke out atop of the pit as another NPC accused the Cleric of trying (deliberately) to kill the thief when she hit him with a rock by mistake. Emotions were still bruised as the limp body of the Dwarven Thief was pulled up (DM's note: He did at least have the sense to tie a rope around himself before he went down the pit in the first place). Alive but poorly until the poison wore off was the Cleric's verdict. The PC's also started to get interested in the contents of the thief's leather back pack ;)
To be continued at a future Xmas D&D session yet to be arranged. Note: The Ranger's PC insisted on making the next one.
PS I suppose post 490 should have been about Marathon ;)