Now that the whole party retreated into the room that used to be some sort of kennels, they broke out their healing skills to help heal all the constitution damage that the stirges had inflicted. Blackwell had some difficulty getting unstuck from the trapped chest that he picked up. Almost miraculously, ZOla gave him a hand and they were able to get him free without the use of Universal Solvent, plus they were also able to get his gloves free as well, and Blackwell happily sat down for a well deserved rest. For the ones that were very damaged, the bandages of rapid recovery were broken out to not only help speed the recovery but to allow the healing to continue when the party got moving again.
Now our intrepid band decided to back-track and go around the stirge room altogether. But when they turned the corner of the hallway, the layout of Undermountain had changed! where there once was a long hallway that a guard room intersected as well as the large room of the previous large battle a couple days ago now had a T intersection that ended in two doors. They had never seen this intersection before so now they had no idea where they really were in Undermountain. Zerak immediately attributed this to the nature of Halaster's creation, definitely not reassuring the rest of the party.
They listened at both doors: the door to the left had no sounds behind it; the door to the right had some muffled sounds emiting, but nothing distinct could be determined from it. Asphodel cautiously opened the left door and saw a rather disturbing sight:
The sights that greeted them gave them pause, and initially no one wanted to enter the room at all. So they went and slowly opened the other door to see what was behind it. There they saw long, shallow stairs descending about 20 feet over a distance of around 40 feet and ending in another door. Not wanting to head downstairs in Undermountain until they absolutely had to, they opted for the room that had the pink and green mist.
First they used a grappling hook to snare one of the dead bodies so they could examine it and see if there were any tell-tale signs on it as to what its fate had been. Unfortunately, nothing was discernible on this one and the next body they drug away from the mist. So Zerak finally just decided to tie the rope to himself, gave the other end to Zola and stepped into the room. And... nothing happened. So he started to slowly walk towards the mist with Zola and Asphodel also entering the room and Kel now holding onto the rope tied to Zerak.
When Zerak approached the mist within 10 feet, something started to happen:
Zerak thought the apparition may be in the likeness of Halaster himself, and being emboldened, responded, "Bring it!"
And the apparition continued,
So this puzzle took several minutes for the party to figure out. Zerak, Kel, Asphodel and Zola all took part in attempting the solution before actually having anyone walk through the mists. And so when the attempted it, they were successful on the first try and no one was killed. The solution went something like this:
Zerak sat in the throne and saw a vision of two vampires, well dressed, and obviously in a place of wealth. They were feeding on a woman, whose body was quite well formed, dressed in torn, dirty clothing. He did not see her face. The woman was chained to a large cage which appeared to be her cell. There was food and water on a table nearby and a comfortable bed was in the cell as well. Then the vision ended and Zerak knew that he had been granted a boon that he could use in a future encounter where he could negate the effects of a wound he may receive. The apparition called it "Halaster's Vision."
The mists were now gone and they were free to safely walk back to the entrance of the room where the relayed what had happened to the rest of the party. They moved on to the door that led to the stairs down. Carefully opening the door at the bottom of the stairs, Asphodel saw a prison area beyond. Two hobgoblin jailers with 7 prisoners chained to the walls were in here. So she burst into the room and went after the closest hobgoblin, who was tending a brazer heating up irons. Her attacks were so devastating that the hobgoblin never had a chance, going down in the very first round of combat. The second jailer fared just as bad and went down a short 12 seconds later. The party then went around and administered healing to all the prisoners and unlocked them from their shackles.
They found the prisoners came from varying places and were brought here in very random manners, except for Enda, a female halfling rogue who was actually in Rutherford's party. She told the party that at some point in their trekking through Undermountain, they came to a spot where Rutherford asked them to wait behind the corner while he went ahead. He spoke some words in Elven and when the party advanced, he had disappeared. Then Zarr kind of snapped and started fighting with the other members of the party, killing his brother. So Enda ran and stated to look for her own way out. That's when she discovered the changing nature of the passageways in Undermountain. And these changes ended up leading her into Zarr again, who now thought he was some great conqueror amassing a great army to attack Waterdeep and take it by force. Zarr still recognized Enda and threw her in irons for treason against him. Now she knows the way to the place where Rutherford disappeared and has recently seen the passageway because she's been moved back and forth, used for bait etc. and can lead the heroes to the place. But it means going directly through Zarr's zone of control, and most likely will involve killing him to get by, which she thinks is a great idea. One of the prisoners was a female paladin of Kelemvor (from a very distant land) and had volunteered to look after the former prisoners as the group led the way through to the entrance.
So now the group headed back towards the stirge room and gathered everyone so that when Asphodel and Blackwell flew into the room to open the far door as quickly as possibly, the rest of the group was ready to run through the room, hopefully avoiding any more stirges from flying into the room. With everyone safely on the far side of the room, they closed the door just as one stirge popped its head out of one of the holes in the walls. They cautiously advanced down the hallway which soon opened up into a large irregularly shaped room with three other doors leading out on the far side. The whole floor of the room was covered in rocks and worked stone debris. Looking up at the ceiling it was obvious that a lot if not all of the material on the floor had come from the ceiling. There were also four large statues of creatures with wings and were easily recognizable as statues of gargoyles, but whether they were the real things was yet to be discovered for they did not move when the party came into sight. Only after our heroes entered the room about fifteen feet in did the gargoyles animate and attack. But they were ready for them and were not surprised by the sudden transformation.
Battling the gargoyles was quite a bit tougher than the previous fight they had with the hobgoblin jailers and lasted quite a few rounds. During the fight, the ceiling gave more of its material away a couple of times, causing damage to all that were inside the room at the time. None of our heroes were severely hurt in the altercation and finally slew all four gargoyles without a loss in the party.
Next, Blackwell, supported by Asphodel, Zola, and Kel, advanced into the far side of the room to investigate the door on the left. It opened into a partitioned off laboratory of sorts. They heard a kobold voice talking to itself presumably about mixing things right and not losing anymore fingers and such. Kel and Zola carefully advanced around one side of the corner of the room while Asphodel crept by the other to gain flanking on whoever was in here. And Blackwell stood outside the door waiting to see what would happen.
Someone must have made a noise for when they rounded the corner, they were attacked by a kobold throwing some kind of alchemical mixture at Kel, which turned out to be some kind of acid. Then the kobold disappeared! Zola cast detect magic on the area and was able to "see" approximately where the creature had moved to and swung at it, and actual hit it solidly. Asphodel jumped and attacked it as well, also hitting the creature. But the it used a wand of burning hands on them and caused even more damage to the group. But the real trouble didn't start till the next round when it threw a fireball just in back of Asphodel and it caused a massive chain reaction in the entire room! Another four explosions were triggered throughout the room that cause our heroes some significant damage and killed the kobold. After the blasts a search of the charred body revealed that it not only had a wand of burning hands but a wand of cure moderate wounds as well. The rest of the room's contents were all but destroyed completely.
We leave our heroes brushing off the dirt and debris caused by the massive multiple explosions that just occurred. Now they need to decide which of the two remaining doors are safer to lead their rescued prisoners down and which one will get them to the confrontation with Zarr and, hopefully, their ultimate destination, to find Rutherford.