- Marich, Level 2 Magic-User [played by David]
- Anil, Level 1 Cleric of Manpac (eunuch) [played by Patrick]
- Manjeet, Level 1 Fighter [played by Nathan]
- Retainers: Binod, Nagendra I, Nagendra II, Fat Sanjam, Lokendra, Sinba
Marich, Anil and Manjeet began plotting ways to placate the wizardess/whore Jharanda, and also get their revenge on Marich II, who they suspected of stealing from them. Eventually Manjeet and Marich decided to write a message which they sent to Jharanda through the daughter of the owner of their lodgings, a girl called Tyree. In it, they promised to tell the wizardress about one of the clay creations of the archmage Gulvedra, which they had encountered hiding at the Old Watchtower in the South, as a quid pro quo for letting Anil off the hook for annoying her. As yet, they have not received a response.
Marich II was dealt with expediently: when the hirelings gathered together the next day he was exposed and humiliated in front of all of them, told to hand back the chain mail and weapons that had been bought for him, and removed from the PCs' employ. [DM's note: I was amazed that they didn't take him into the forest and beat him up or worse, which would have been far more in keeping with their escapades so far.] To replace him, and also Padma who had been slain, they hired a tall thin spearman called Lokendra, and a rather ugly teenage girl called Sinba, to fill out their ranks of underlings.
They then went to the Guild of Sages: Anil had decided that his god, Manpac, had preordained his previous encounter with the galeb duhr in the forest, and he wanted to know more about the galeb duhr and their origins. He agreed to provide a partial map of the first level of Sangmenzhang to the sage Man, in return for information on the galeb duhr. He learned that it was very unusual to see one in the forest, and that they usually inhabited the high mountains where men found it difficult to breathe. They wanted above all to merely survive - to exist in the face of adversity, like a mountain itself. Man speculated that the Yak Folk, the malevolent slavers of the peaks, would know more of them. The PCs left with curiosity piqued.
They decided to make their way to Sangmenzhang. On the way they encountered a group of pilgrims heading to the nearby Walung monastery; they later learned that the Walung were an order of meditative healers who practice the art of self-mummification to gain eternal (un)life.
They entered Sangmenzhang through their secretly-discovered back entrance, from which they had ejected the Feathered Men. Here, they set about constructing an elaborate set of barricades from bamboo, allowing them to use the Feathered Men's cave as a kind of base of operations in the old citadel. From there, they set about exploring the immediate chambers. Almost instantly they encountered a group of hideous, flesh devouring maggots, which nearly killed Manjeet, Sinba and one of the Nagendras by released burrowing worms into their bodies which had to be cut out with knives and much loss of blood; but in the maggot chamber they recovered 8 big clay pots containing 784 coins of blended silver and gold. While they were busy dragging their wounded and the money to their base, they were set upon by a giant cave locust which they cornered and stabbed to death.
They stayed in their base for a few days, licking their wounds, although the fights had taken Anil to Level 2, and he was now able to use the power of Manpac to aid with healing. While resting in the cave they were forced to drive off or kill four pandas which ate their mule, tied up in the bamboo groves below; they decided to try to sell the panda bones and skins in Silaish Vo next they were there. They also, at night, heard something big and humanoid moving through the forest; the next day they found big footprints and a path of broken canes of bamboo, but decided to press on deeper into Sangmenzhang instead.
They came across a small chamber with the door barred from the inside, which they hacked down with axes, to discover what had once apparently been a bed chamber. It was a mystery as to how it could be barred from the inside with nobody in it. They discovered an ancient book made out of slate hidden in the wall, covered in strange circular script, and decided to take it with them.
They also discovered a group of strange gibbon-men, who they quickly slew; exploring further, they discovered another chamber in which they found many branches and twigs and broken egg-shells: they surmised that this was the place where the Feathered Men had been rearing young, and they speculated that the gibbon-men may have smashed the eggs.
Pressing deeper, the party came to a narrow corridor with a door at the end. While decided whether to open it, they were set upon from the rear by strange creatures: shaped like large dogs, they were nearly invisible and perfectly transparent, with only a vague outline indicating their presence. Bunched up in the corridor as the party was, things looked bleak: these strange dog-things killed Binod, in the rear, and then tore out Fat Sanjam's bowels, filling the corridor with blood and faeces. Manjeet, at the front by the door, had no choice but to open it and try to escape that way - but discovered the chamber behind was already inhabited by two very large, very intimidating female humanoid creatures of indeterminate origin. Desperate, the PCs begged to be allowed to shelter from the dog-things, while their remaining hirelings kept the hounds at bay with spears. Eventually the two female creatures allowed them to enter the chamber and shut and bar the door.
The two creatures revealed themselves to be sisters, Quaggoths from the mountains, who had fled their clan and were hiding in Sangmenzhang. They explained that they had encountered the invisible dog-things before, and thought them demons who the ancient dwarves of Sangmenzhang had disturbed from the depths of the earth shortly before their downfall. Anil managed to strike up a relationship of a kind with these two Quaggoth sisters - mostly by abject begging - and they agreed an arrangement with the PCs, that they would cooperate to try to drive monsters from this area of the citadel and make it a more safe dwelling place for them.
Thoughts: A fun session, with plenty of derring-do, some secret doors, some retainer death, and pandas. Patrick also seemed genuinely chuffed about making level 2 and finally being able to cast Cleric spells. The final tense crescendo - a perfectly timed random encounter - just goes to show that it isn't always all about bathos.