It was snowing again. The weather had been getting colder and the nights were getting longer. For some this was a good thing and for others not so much. With the leaves turning and the occasional frost at night it was time to get serious about nesting away. Building a proper nest requires money though; piles and piles of glimmering coins, heaps of gems, or crates full of rare luxury goods. These were things that had been weighing on the minds of the collective party for nearly a month. Specifically it was the fantasies of finding these things hidden away in the stirge lair that had been driving them all to distraction. They had concocted a plan, bought materials, and prepped themselves for the conflict, but had been denied the chance by the collected forces of the universe, and some anthrophagic anthropomorphic bugs and their fungus infested minions. Like the tide, though, they would not be stopped. This time, this week, the party would be successful.
The group met in their usual haunt, a small bar that catered to adventurous types. There was a different feeling in the air this time. It was best characterized by what it didn’t have rather than what it did. It was the aura of joviality that normally clung to the group like a thick tar. No jokes, no smiles, no quips, and only the barest recognition of Liryl’s restored state of being. This was a determined group, with one mission in mind; wresting the wealth that was due them back from the greedy hands of fate. This time around Rolniak wasn’t the only one bringing friends. Liryl had met and recruited a small pixie fairy named Donella to help.
As the group left the city limits, pulling their prison cart, many of them made sure to mention the goat episode and get assurances from Forimyr that it wouldn’t happen again. Despite his promise and best intentions, fate would make a liar out of him, though Sturbin was also largely at fault. Before that though there was a curious incident. As the party made its way across the, now very familiar, landscape there came, form the opposite direction, a large sweating man. There were many things that struck the group as odd about this gentleman, chiefly was the fact that he was in the middle of nowhere, with no apparent gear aside from a club hanging on his belt. Also, when hailed, the man acted in a rather suspicious manner. This could have been due to the fact that he was being faced down by what amounted to a crew of midgets pulling a prison cart, but regardless of the reasons his actions were suspicious. If it had been another day it might well have turned out that this man was a bandit, but as the group was busy and focused they decided to give the portly person the benefit of the doubt and let him trudge on by unmolested.
Not long after the odd encounter with the obese gentleman the group had finally reached the ruined gatehouse that marked the entrance to the path leading to ruins. After a check for recent habitation the group moved through, much like they had on previous weeks. Also like previous weeks, there was something waiting on the other side of the walls. This time a very large spider had been sunning itself and waiting for prey in ambush. The creature was about two feet in length and when the party saw it, it froze in place, standing on top of a stump. Ordinarily, especially with Forimyr’s promise, the group would ignore a creature that posed them no threat or substantial gain. This particular creature happened to be a spider though, and at least one person within the party could not stand to let the creature continue its life unmolested. Upon laying eyes on the spider Sturbin drew an arrow, knocked it, and then called for the creature’s death. Ever willing to put his crossbow to good use Forimyr quickly drew a bead and fired before anyone else could react. He grazed the beast and began re-cranking his bow for a follow up shot. With an astonishing show of speed and agility the spider leapt from the stump it had been sitting on and landed on Forimyr’s shoulder. The creature attempted to sink its fangs into Forimyr’s face, but was foiled by his helmet. The following comedy of errors resulted in a dead spider and bruised egos but no real wounds.
Putting the spider behind them the party made their way back to the stone filled clearing in front of the ruins. Their paranoia at an all time high, the group carefully checked the area for signs of aggressors, then checked the upper eye windows for an ambush. The entire place was quiet, but showed signs of recent activity. With no other beings in the area the group decided to take their chance, unload the prison cart, and make their way into the ruins.
A careful search of the large entry chamber revealed more of the same. No other creatures, but signs of recent activity. The group passed through the area on full alert, and went up into their staging room. After having gone over the plan so many times before everyone knew their role. The net was threaded, weighted and hung from hooks that Rolniak plastered into place. All that was left was for the gnome to summon forth the bait. His first attempt called forth a horde of large rats and while they would make excellent bait, their lack of opposable thumbs meant that opening the doors between the trap room and the stirge lair would be impossible. The rats were dismissed back to the ether and the little gnome tried again. This time his circle called forth two elven warriors. They made perfect bait for two reasons. Having hands meant they would be able to open the doors blocking the way to the stirges, and being elves meant that no one would be sad to see them drained of life. The gnome gave his minions their commands, Sturbin readied himself with the door rope, and Liryl and Forimyr took the pull ropes into hand. Everything was set and the gnome sent his charges off with their commands.
The group waited with baited breath. This plan had taken many hours to devise and set up and many more hours to actually try to implement and failure could spell doom for the entire group at the end of a stirge proboscis. The screams let the party know that the elves had encountered their targets, the thumping that followed inferred that the elves had come running down the stairs. Everyone gripped their ropes a little tighter and waited for the targets to appear. It did not take long for the two elves, now covered in stirges, to stumble into the room. Sturbin waited until he was sure the majority of the creatures had followed before pulling on his rope, slamming the door closed. The elves were dismissed and Forimyr and Liryl simultaneously released the mooring hitches that had been suspending the net. The plan had worked beautifully and a full nine stirges were now trapped under the large weighted net. This meant that at least one had gotten away, but one stirge would be little more than a bother if the party was ready for it. With the stirges temporarily trapped below the net Sturbin, Forimyr, and Liryl set about clubbing them into unconsciousness whole Rolniak, the gnome, and Donella kept watch on the room entrance.
After a few seconds a loud humming could be heard on the other side of the closed door, followed by many thumps, like a ball being thrown against a wall. After about a minute the humming sound began to fade, only to pick up again coming from the opposite direction. The remaining stirges had found a way out through the dwarf eye and were now coming up the stairs to attack the party. Liryl, Forimyr, and Sturbin could not afford to stop beating the netted creatures for fear that they might wiggle out captivity so it was left to the three arcanists to protect the investment and defeat the stirge Assault. All three of them activated arcane defenses and readied themselves to overcome whatever might show itself. They did not disappoint.
The first stirge to come flying up the stairway was met with a barrage of glowing green bolts of force, managed to dodge a crossbow bolt, but was finished off by the gnome’s cat companion. Gleeful of their victory the three did not have long to celebrate because more humming could be heard approaching their position. Sure enough two more of the creatures came flying up the stairs, these two were met with a green barrage, a cat assault, and this time a successful crossbow shot from the gnome. The two stirges were enraged and hurt, but still able to threaten the group. Like living magic missles the two stirges homed in on the gnome and his companion, unlike magic missile though, the stirges did not hit their targets; the first was deflected by the cats thick fur and tough skin, while the second rebounded off of an invisible shield of force that surrounded the little gnome. It took almost no effort to finish off the wounded stirges, but by this time a fourth one had shown up. This stirge too went for the gnome with similar results. Angered that it had attacked his master Scruffy batted the creature out of the air and made short work of it. By this time the three arcanists were at the end of their resources and looked back to the stairs, but were relieved to neither see nor hear another beast. It only took a few minutes more to finish beating the netted stirges into submission so that they could be gathered and placed in a closed sack for transportation.
With the stirge problem taken care of the party set it’s sight on their real goal, the lair. It was an easy matter to follow the dry rotting smell back to it’s origin, a pile of rotting desiccated corpses in the middle of an L-shaped room. With quick efficiency the party searched and stripped all of the corpses of anything that looked remotely valuable, then quickly made their way back to the prison cart. After piling the loot into the cart, including the captured stirges, the group escorted their mobile treasure pile back to the city for proper examination. All in all, the group had made out quite nicely. Aside from the assorted coin, gems, and sellable equipment, the group had also found a vial of sweet water, a substance that would purify any water source, a pair of rare arcane scrolls, and a jeweled wand of fire. Even with this haul though, many in the group were not satisfied. Their thoughts were turning back to what else might be hidden away in those ruins. With the stirges now taken care of the group figured they would be able to explore the ruins more thoroughly and decided, contrary to Sturbin’s objection, to set their sights back in that direction next week.