The surviving party members are:
-Cazael the spiderling fighter. Hardened survivor of many perils and far too much "wizard business".
-Swainson the garden wizard. Turned into a Lamassu (lion-bodied human-headed flying sphinx). Has a cat-coat with pockets and enchanted claws.
-Tuck the flealing summoner. A little bit creepy.
-Klaus the barbarian-sorcerer. Turned into a brownie; very unhappy in current form.
-Alice the animist witch. A little bit mad.
After stumbling through the catacombs for several hours, fleeing from anything that glowed or looked threatening, the party eventually found a fissure in the wall that didn't seem to be deliberately constructed. They crept through and found themselves on a balcony overlooking an underground city.
It took them a few minutes to adjust to sights more than a lantern's light in front of their eyes. The city was lit by a green chemical glow from a fissure along its length. Some ancient catastrophe had tilted entire districts, shattered roads and bridges, and shivered monuments into fragments. A few very distant lights moved occasionally. Torches, ghosts, or something far stranger? The air shimmered with chemical fumes.
After making camp and trying to adjust to the newly expanded vista, the party decided to explore the ruins. "After all," Swainson said, "that fungal ambassodile said we could track down some missing dwarf miners here. If we do, apparently he'll give us a map to the surface."
"Do you think he's still alive? We did kind of explode that village," Klaus said despondently.
With Swainson flying ahead to act as a scout and rope anchor, the party began moving through the abandoned cityscape. They weren't the only ones trying to find valuable treasure in the decaying and chem-blasted hulls of ancient buildings. Emilio, a human speleomage and Jericho, a human elementalist wizard, had mounted an expedition of their own. Trained underground by separate (competing) cabals of wizards and sent off to find valuable items, the two mages didn't trust each other... but knew their separate odds of survival were poor.
Swainson, a flying sphinx-thing, made an unlikely diplomat, but when she blundered into Emelio and Jericho she did her best to ease tensions before the rest of the group arrived. Having just lost one wizard, Cazael wasn't pleased to see two more, but accepted that they'd probably be less trouble than the late and lamented Bill. A vague treasure-sharing agreement was worked out, and the newly expanded party continued their quest for valuables.
In their wanderings, they found:
- ghosts (sprinted away from).
- mysterious enchantments (ignored).
- some friendly kobolds hiding in a toppled statue (lightly bribed.
- an iron golem guarding a gold mask (smashed and looted).
- pools of toxic flesh-devouring liquid (tempted to weaponized but ignored).
- malfunctioning repair-golems and seemingly insane constructs (interrogated then ignored).
"I'm going in!" Jericho announced, as the party watched from a safe distance. Despite being blasted by lightning and burned by strange energies, he pried out the occultum and fled back to the group.
He spent the next few hours vomiting and staggering. All his hair fell out. "Wizard business," Cazael declared, and refused to stand near him. Still, the egg-sized lump of occultum was a magical treasure beyond compare.
Continuing their exploration, the party found some other raiders in the ruins. A group of six antlings had fortified a tower. They were willing to ally with the PCs provided the PCs were traveling deeper into the ruins. They had no food to offer, but gave some hints towards local treasure.
Following the hints, the party found a buried bunker, disabled a lightning trap, fought some gas-mask-clad ghouls, and looted some gold and relics. The main treasure was a 2'x4' cabinet door that opened into an extradimensional space; a "door of holding", in a sense. Items placed inside it didn't increase the weight of the door and frame. Jericho was asked to carry the door; it provided a convenient shield between the unhealthy wizard and his allies.
Emelio, tempted by the occultum floating around the group, decided to try a dangerous technique for enhancing raw spellcasting power. With Jericho's help, the speleomage melted an occultum coin over a magic flame and injected the semi-real mixture directly into their skull. While the molten occultum damaged a few vital brain regions, it also granted Emelio extra power. The other wizards decided not to try it... yet.
After another day of rest, the party began their descent into the lower regions of the collapsed city. They fought off an ambush by some sort of hook-skinned doppleganger-fishing-line-thing, narrowly avoided some very dangerous terrain, and got moderately lost.
While trying to get their bearings, the group spotted a mostly intact room suspended inside a ruined horizontal building. Reaching the precariously balanced room was a challenge. Klaus, the smallest party member, agreed to be lowered on a rope. One locked cabinet was both intact and promising; Klaus tried to open it and narrowly dodged a dart trap. Annoyed, he stuck his hand inside, felt a velvet bag, and was astonished when the cabinet door slammed shut, neatly severing his hand at the wrist. The other PCs hauled him up and bandaged his wound.
Tuck volunteered for a second attempt. He decided to attach his summoned rope, Postidon-Pru, to the building's spar and to the cabinet drawer. The plan was to command the rope to retract, pulling the door free without risk of further injury. The initial stage worked, but the force and exertion started a chain reaction. The building began to collapse. The drawer, swinging like a pendulm on the end of the summoned rope, bashed into the outside of the hanging room. Tuck grabbed for the velvet bag. He was still attached to the building's roof with a rope and harness; escape was feasible.
Unfortunately, Klaus decided to help. The sorcerer created an iron box around Tuck to "protect him" from the collapsing structure. The box neatly severed Tuck's rope and trapped him in a ready-made coffin. As the box began to fall, Klaus realized his mistake and used sorcery to add pillows to the box's interior.
It didn't help. The summoner plummeted off the building, smashed through several layers of ruin, and collided with an iron plate far below. A few seconds later the sorcerous coffin vanished, revealing Tuck's mashed remains. Swainson flew down to loot the corpse. The velvet bag, the source of all the trouble, contained a rich haul of occultum and diamonds.
Tuck's death had also deprived the party of their only perpetual light source. The antlings had a lantern and several PCs still carried oil, but if the lantern failed or their hirelings decided to leave, the party could only rely on magic and temporary light spells.
Would the party ever find those missing miners? What riches lie at the bottom of the Ruins? Would any other wizards inject occultum directly into their brains?
Find out next time.