Continuing the infiltration of the Sour Nest, the Mighty Nein and their dwarven ally, Keg, found themselves with fewer resources and one fewer party member than they started with. This last set back proved only temporary, however...
Clearing the Coast
- Guard 1: 31 damage taken, 9 killing blow by Beau
- Guard 2: 43 damage taken, 12 killing blow by Keg
Before continuing their descent into the lower chambers, the party finished the scouting the upper rooms, finding two more alerted guards roused from their slumber. After failing to send both of them away, Beau single-handedly killed the more experienced of the two. This scared off the second, who soon fell to the assault of Nott, Caduceus, and Keg. With almost all of the hired goons dispatched, the Nein followed after a familiar hummingbird into the chamber where Ruzza and Protto nervously and impatiently awaited the invaders.
Caleb quickly found the equally familiar Shakäste, who had been patiently using the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna (not Stacy, though, that’s not her name) to gather materials to escape the cage the Shepherds had placed him in after he had set free a potential "asset" a few days earlier. Seeing the party arrive through the eyes of the hummingbird, Shakäste joined the Nein in their assault, helping chase both Ruzza, Protto, and the last goon away to the final room.
Although Nott and Protto both traded shots and Ruzza attempted (and failed) to viciously mock Shakäste, it should be noted that Ruzza and Protto did not begin retaliation until they felt they were mostly safe behind the bars of the portcullis. As soon as Nott showed herself on the other side of it, the Shepherds’ rogue and bard dashed to safety deeper within their dungeon. Without their other allies to back them up or any sign of their boss, the home court advantage gave them little in the way of comfort or emotional security.
Protto and Ruzza made their escape, but not before Protto did what Phil and Not Phil could not: kill Frumpkin. (We’d say shooting a longbow arrow at a three-hit point spider was a bit excessive, but, you know, if you saw a spider that big, you’d probably react similarly.) The time it took for The Mighty Nein to figure out their way through the rest of the dungeon gave Protto, Ruzza, and the remaining lone guard time to get set up in the final dungeon. It also gave Protto enough time to switch weapons, from longbow to heavy crossbow.
To add to the ambience, Lorenzo's deep voice followed the party as they dove deeper into the dungeon. Although the Nein found it more annoying than unsettling, his primary goal was to keep Keg off-balanced. However, by this point, she had had enough, and was able to turn her cowardice into functional rage. (Unbeknownst to the party, Lorenzo was in their company since before they had managed to enter the keep's interior, biding his time for the perfect opportunity to strike. But we'll talk more about him in another article...)
The Lower Chambers
The "asset preparation chambers" of the Sour Nest were designed to not be escaped, and to punish any who would try. The initial trap door into the dungeon was, predictably, trapped, though Nott successfully disarmed it. The party fell victim to collapsing stone (easily shoved off), a proximity-sensitive fiery brazier (dispelled by Caduceus), and a pair of enclosing portculusis (defeated by Keg's deadlift and Nott's mage hand). Nott's investigation prevented them from also falling prey to an arcane tile placed in front of another secured door.
Cages lined the walls with weakened victims. Despite being of little remaining health and few skills to aid in the attack, the victims were at least able to confirm that Fjord, Jester, and Yasha's were here, even if their current states weren't known. The party opted to release one of the weakened victims, a farmer who had been starved and chained up, and suggested that he attempt to free more victims further back. This would keep him out of the upcoming fray, and hopefully away from the interference of any Iron Shepherds. (Since all the ones upstairs were dead. As far as the Mighty Nein knew, anyway.)
Caleb may have regretted his decision to expend the Invisibility Scroll, but there is little doubt that he used it extremely effectively for the spell's duration.
Nefertiti may have failed Shakäste, but the Duchess proved a loyal and effective companion. She brought all the materials needed to free Shakäste from his cage, and filled Frumpkin's spot as spy in the cat-spider's absence (even if she wasn't particularly stealthy, either). Outside of spiritual weapon, Shakäste opted to save his spells for the final battle.
In a weird twist for Nott, her stealth fell by the wayside. However, in an even weirder twist for her, her ability to sniff out and adequately disarm traps kept the party safe on multiple occasions, becoming, quote, “the greatest rogue alive.” Keg and Beau served well as the group tanks, muscling through problems as they popped up.
We also got to learn a little more about Caduceus during the scuffle. He put whatever enchantment lies in his staff to use, summoning a swarm of beetles to enter the portcullis chamber. He followed this up by using the firbolg ability Hidden Step to go invisible for a round. As we mentioned earlier, he also put his firbolg magic to use to dispel the brazier, allowing the rest The Mighty Nein to proceed unharmed into the final stairwell. We also learned that Caduceus is easily fascinated and distracted by wall moss. He’s...been living alone in the woods for a while.
Probably the most significant decision the party took was to not attempt a short rest. As we would learn after the show from the dungeon master himself, Lorenzo would have never given then the luxury had they tried to take it...