Picking up beside the spynx...
Jhuni Blackfire (she/her) - Fire Mage
Thelmor Irdro (he/him) - Warrior
Nil (they/them) - Priest
Snow (she/her) - Swashbuckler and Ranger
Sunrise (she/her) - absent
Perfect (he/him) - fighter
So, the gynospynx... Nil bows politely to the gynospynx. "Greetings. Do you live in these tunnels?"
Spynx: "They are nice tunnels. You have solved my riddle and you may pass."
Nil: "What might we find down these passages?"
Sphynx: "You are seeking three items, are you not? I can tell you how to obtain them, for a price. I do not have much here, but I have knowledge."
Nil: "What's your price?"
Sphynx: "Knowledge, or riches. I am not picky."
Grey: "There is a wizard in town, a rogue from Waterdeep, who disappeared from the guild there with a set of magical tomes. He will awaken this morning to discover that those tomes have again disappeared. The most interesting of the tomes contained a series of initiations designed to... increase one's natural abilities."
Sphynx: "Knowledge for knowledge: I helped the wizard write those letters. We have come to an... arrangement."
Nil: "What sort of arrangement?"
Sphynx: "Will you give me knowledge for knowledge?"
Nil: "Old knowledge, or new knowledge?"
Sphynx: "Old is better, but often more expensive."
Nil: "Nearby towns, or mountains?"
Sphynx: "I know this mountain very well."
Nil: explains about Doc Pep.
Sphynx: "Very well. There are no wrong turns here; what you seek is at the end of each of these passages."
Thelmor: "Would you trade a bit of knowledge, something of interest to the Raven Queen, for knowledge of Keraptis?" He comes across with an interesting historical tidbit.
Sphynx: "I can tell you something of Keraptis. He is alive; his age has given him power. You would not be able to kill him, though it gives me no pleasure to say it. If you come across Keraptis, you will perish horribly."
Thelmor: "I thank you."
Sphynx: "Enjoy yourselves in the halls. Don't die."
Nil: "If we take the items and escape, would he let them go or come after them?"
Sphynx: "He lets nothing go: not the weapons, not his life, not his lands."
Nil: "So how do we feel about going up against an unstoppable opponent?"
Everybody turns to look at Perfect, since he's our employer: "If we steal them," says the tiefling, "we could still have a perfect retreat."
We decide to take the left fork, and start down it in our marching order. ("Nil takes the lead, with Jhuni following, then Perfect, then Thelmor, then Sunrise, then Grey, then Snow.") Nil is probing the ground with her staff, so she notices when suddenly there's nothing under the staff. A little experimenting with rope and the Light-spelled rock shows that there's a ten-foot pit in front of us. We don't see anything in the pit, just really murky water. Grey manages to chalk in a little warning mark above the edge, then follows Perfect and Thelmor in jumping across; Snow (ironically) misses, and makes the cat-fell-in-bathtub noise and then swims the rest of the way out and is deeply upset with everything. Jhuni has trouble with the swimming, but Thelmor and Perfect help haul her out.We fall back into our marching order and continue on, with Nil still checking the floor as we advance.
We reach a new section of passage, with copper-colored plates 6' high and 6' wide covering the walls before us. Nil starts checking to see if they're moveable. They're in scale mail, over a trousers-and-tunic outfit, and the longer they stand in front the plates the warmer they feel. "Jhuni, you've an affinity for flame and fire. What do you make of these?"
Jhuni and Nil consider. There are plenty of heat-related spells, so this may well be magic. There are also other ways to heat metal, from flames to levin-fire. The gnome artificers use a soft lighting to make metal hot sometimes.
The copper plates are not touching the water we're standing in.
Grey begins casting Detect Magic. While he's working, we start hearing heavy-footed tramping in the water ahead. So... this spell is likely to go unfinished for the moment. (OOC: We roll initiative: Snow, Grey, Nil, Thelmor, Jhuni, and Perfect's in there somewhere.) There's a large creature down the corridor, massive; it comes slogging down the corridor at high speed.
Snow moves up and attacks; as a gloomstalker ranger, she's effectively invisible and also making a sneak attack. (OOC: 30 damage) It roars in confusion: "Fuck!" Snow slips back, and the Ogre has no idea what just happened.
Grey drops an illusion further up the corridor: an armored knight who shouts: "Ho, ugly! Turn and face your doom!"
The ogre swings around and raises its massive club to point back at the knight in a challenge.
Nil, looking at the ogre's massive back, casts a spell but fails to affect it.
Thelmor's greataxe is suddenly on fire, and he just buries it the ogre's back. (19 slashing, 4 fire damage) It screams in pain and anger. Perfect pulls out his greatsword and says, "You can do more than that! Thelmor, strike him again!"
He's passed his attack to Thelmor, who attacks again. (13 slashing, 5 fire) It's not as solid as the first blow, but it definitely connects. Jhuni shoots him in the back of the head with firebolt. The ogre roars, realizing that it shouldn't have turned around, and attacks Thelmor with its greatclub -- but the weapon slides off his fancy new reinforced armor.
Snow slides back and runs her rapier through its heart; she dances aside as falls back into the space she was just occupying. Snow gets out from between the copper plates, and Grey starts the ritual again...
(OOC: we take a break.)
Grey completes the ritual, and the plates do not appear magical; nothing on the ogre appears magical.
Snow drops all her metal gear, and proceeds forward to a 30 x 30' square room, which is free of the copper plates; it's about 70' to get through the passage. There's a staircase leading up. Snow pauses to investigate, and finds a secret door on the east end of the south wall.
The ogre was wearing hide armor and carrying a wooden club, but literally nothing else. Nil discards her metal items and goes poking down the corridor with her staff. There's no sign of a switch for this. We decide to drag our equipment down the corridor, which still gets hot enough to burn through the ropes at about the 60' mark. We manage to haul it the rest of the way through a combination of mage hand and shoveling it along with wooden staff and greatclub.
Once we're re-equipped, Snow points us to the secret door. We can see the seams, so hopefully we can just push it open. Nil checks over the door, looking for traps or anything else, then pushes it open. The stench of death wafts out, and groans and growls fill the air as six figures in the dark start walking towards us.
(OOC: Initiative is Thelmor, Snow, Grey, Jhuni, and Nil, and once again Perfect is in there somewhere.) Thelmor steps forward and bisects the first of the creatures, leaving its halves to slide into the water. Snow moves up and stabs the closest one; Grey puts an arrow in its throat. Jhuni moves up and hits them with Burning Hands, immolating the one in front and damaging the rest. She moves back as the ghouls shuffle forward, and they attack our front line but miss.
Perfect maneuvers around beside one, and cleaves through one of the ghouls, then follows through to the one adjacent to it as well; it doesn't fall, but it feels it. He raises his greatsword and smiles, then attacks again, damaging the one in front of him. Nil looks at our opponents, and determines that they're ghouls and not as powerful as all that. They raise their staff and summons a powerful ball of divine light, and attempts to turn them.
There's something around the ghouls' necks: they're wearing amulets, and the amulets hold an aura of darkness around them. It turns back the light effect of the turning, and Nil curses vehemently. Thelmor attacks, cutting into a ghoul, and then beheads it. Grey finishes Perfect's victim with an arrow, and Jhuni sets fire to the last one. It snarls and attacks Thelmor with a claw to the face (OOC: 6 slashing) to remarkably little effect. Perfect steps up and uses his greatsword to, um, disarm the thing. He calls for Grey to finish the job, which he does by decapitating it with an arrow. Nil moves to collect the necklaces.
We find a stone panel with a metal handle on it; when we pull the lever, we find a switch. We turn off the hot metal corridor. Who even does that in his own dungeon??? Nil examines the amulets, finding a mixture of necromancy, abyssal and infernal writings, all cobbled together to confound turning undead. We've never seen the like; they're probably created by Keraptis. Nil turns one over to Thelmor for the Raven Queen, and wraps the others up to take back to their temple. We check the room, but don't find any adventurer corpses.
Jhuni replaces the glowing stone with a glowing ball bearing. We climb the stairs up out of the water, finding a 20' wide passage broken by a pair of trenches -- 5' wide and 10' deep, the bottoms lined with razor-like blades. There's a second one a little ways out, and the floor between is covered with a silvery sheen. Nil throws the ball-bearing across to the silvery floor. It bounces wildly, leaping from the floor to the walls and ceiling and eventually crashing into the pit on the far side.
We try an unspelled ball bearing, and throw it down the corridor. It behaves similarly. Snow gets us to put a rope around her waist with a very careful length, then leaps across to the far side. She starts to slide forward, then gets pulled back by the rope, which is short enough to keep her from landing on the spikes at the bottom. There is a distinct impression that the entire corridor is basically frictionless, so anything that enters it is going to proceed to the far end (and its pit) at an uncontrolled rate of speed.
We try pouring some acid on one of the walls using mage-hand, but it doesn't touch the walls or floor until it finally falls into the pit and lands there. Snow manages a perfectly ridiculous stunt with a rope around her waist, surfing down the corridor and leaping across the pit. She tries to pound a spike into the back wall, and the spike goes right through the wall; she changes direction, and puts it in a side wall. Then she adds a second spike at ankle level, and runs a second line along below the first so we don't have to touch the floor at all. We make it across in style.
The illusionary wall lets on to... just about ten feet more of the passage. There's nothing back here; it's just making the passage seem arbitrarily shorter by ten feet. Maybe it's here to prevent people from firing arrows to get across the corridor? It's a one-way illusion, and we could potentially use this.
We have two options from here: north or south. South would be in keeping with the Left Hand Wall approach. Each direction ends in a wooden door. We take a quick consensus and head south. Nil notices a secret door along the wall, but has no way to open it.
There's only the sound of water sloshing beyond the southern door; Snow hears a bit of water, a bit of movement, but not at the door. Snow quietly opens the door. The area beyond the door is a large chamber with a stepped set of aquariums and terrariums leading down. Snow moves inside to get a better perspective (quietly, of course). She finds a door on the far wall, and sees a door at the bottom of the terraces. This... is probably the inverted ziggurat.
We reverse course and check the north door. There's a sound of rushing water beyond, fast-rushing water. It's a ways beyond the door. We look inside. The water is flowing steadily along, well above the floor -- two feet above the floor. It flows from the northeast corner to the south. There are kayaks beside the door, but no paddles. It enters and leaves through holes in the wall. The flow is basically from east to west.
In theory, we could load ourselves into the kayaks and take off down the floating river into the cave/tunnel/pipe beyond, but... No. This is way too terrifying for us. Jhuni has clairvoyance, but we'd have to sacrifice a kayak. We could do it, but.. No. Ziggurat. We'll go see what's under the ziggurat. (OOC: Next session.)