Last week on the Tuesday game...
Although the way up Gorakmor - the "goat staircase" that leads from the orcish ledge to higher tiers of Mt Amarath - proved perilous, what awaited them in the tunnels was even more so. Within minutes of entering the cavern, they encounter a monk desperately fighting off two robed mindflayers.
Battle is enjoined, and when the mindflayers are finally killed (and after Alistair loots a magical stinging belt off one of them), they learn that the monk - a human thug turned monk by the name of Delwynn - is on a personal quest to try and end Winter. Although Delwynn was wise enough to gather the necessary clues that would lead him to Mt Amarath, he is not quite intelligent enough to express exactly why they lead him to Mt Amarath; he simply knows it to be true "in his gut".
Patting the poor confused monk on his back, the party take him with them and they proceed on their way. After an hour or so of running into dead ends and false tunnels, they eventually make their way to the second ledge: home to the skeletal remains of the black dragon of Amarath and a bunch of researchers.
Sera introduces herself and the rest of her party, and after a little panic on the side of the researchers (and after the party disarm and hand over their equipment), both parties eventually come to an understanding that neither side mean the other harm. The researchers explain that they are here to study the lines of strange text that the dragon left scrawled upon the wall, and that although they have been here for several months, they still have not managed to crack the "code". Alistair offers to help, and when shown the text, he realises to his surprise that it's actually Teneros.
"This," the wizard reads (his head throbbing from the sheer force of will required to maintain his Comprehend Languages spell and still translate the difficult text), "is the last will and testament of the black dragon of Amarath. To those strong enough to find and claim it, I bequeath the contents of my hoard. But beware: those who try and fail will suffer the same fate as me."
Moments after Alistair finishes reading the text, the party feels a rumble deep from within the mountain; and it appears that they were not the only ones who felt it. Excitedly, the researchers emerge from their tents to investigate the new tunnel that has just opened up. Taking pity on the poor unarmed researchers, the party offers to help them explore the tunnel, but say that they need some rest first. The researchers agree and offer them not only a tent to rest in, but some food and drink as well.
Unfortunately, it proved to all be a ruse: the food and drink was drugged! Only Alistair was strong enough to resist the poison, and as the rest of the party fall unconscious, he peeks out to see the chief researcher - his bumbling incompetence now exchanged for smooth professionalism - order his pet thug to "finish the fools off".
Thinking on his feet, Alistair directs his Magic Missiles not at the thug entering the tent, but at his sleeping comrades instead, in the hopes that the sudden shock would wake them up. It works, and the party quickly rally and take down their would-be assassin. After spending some time cursing the traitorous researchers, they gather up their gear and immediately head for the tunnel.
Although the researchers had the foresight to leave their hired thugs to watch the tunnels, Sera's quick wit and fast talking convinces the thugs that a) she's here on behalf of the Thief's Guild and that b) she's here to tell them that the contract's over because the researchers stiffed the guild on payment. The disgruntled thugs leave the camp in disgust, and the party make their way further into the tunnels.
As they hurry through the tunnels carved with Draconic text that boasts the deeds and name of the black dragon of Amarath, Alistair checks his gear and realises that the researchers have - when their equipment was confiscated - swapped out his sceptre for a very convincing but ultimately non-magical fake. Although the fake still works as an arcane focus for his spells, it lacks the power that he has come to rely on.
After a few more twists and turns - and yet more self-aggrandising Draconic about the mighty dragon, this time accompanied by an acid-etched illustration of the eponymous dragon attacking the city of Amarath - they arrive in a chamber with a central pedestal and just one other exit. On a raised platform around the pedestal, they see the body of a researcher, bag of sand still in his outstretched hand, slowly melting into some sort of acid on pool the platform.
As soon as Gabriel steps onto the platform, four large minotaur skeletons fall from the ceiling and begin reanimating themselves. Although they prove easy enough to hit and destroy, as long as the magic of the chamber remained unbroken, they just kept reanimating time and time again. Upon realising that there was no point in attacking the skeletons, the monk grabs the bag of sand and attempts to leap onto the pedestal, but it was no good: an invisible barrier surrounds the mechanism. Unable to change his trajectory in mid-air, Delwynn slams into the wall of force and falls into the pool of acid.
After studying the barrier for a few moments, Alistair realises that the barrier is not perfect: there's actually an opening on the top! Under the wizard's instruction, Gabriel grabs the bag of sand from the hands of the unconscious monk and tosses it to Sera who proceeds to, with remarkable grace and precision, lob the bag over the invisible barriers.
The spell broken, the exit door shudders open; and this time, when the adventurers hit the minotaur skeletons, they go down and stay down. With Gabriel supporting the unconscious monk, they head through the exit hot on the heels of the evil researchers. But what other horrors await the brave adventurers? With so few spells remaining available to them, will they survive the threats that await them?