The Dragonbusters were enjoying a well-earned respite from the rigors of adventuring, making use of their recently acquired mansion. Kiba was busy teaching new tricks to Dave, while Gargantuon worked his quads. Zephus decided to setup a satellite office for the Radiant Heart, working out of his own quarters. Elsbeth, of course, was making use of their private bar. As she downed yet another Ghost Touch mug of beer, she heard a voice beside her.
“Haven’t you had enough?” said a smart-alecky man. It was a lieutenant of the Sand Fleas, the local rogue and spy guild. On Elsbeth’s other side appeared Softhands, another lieutenant, as if from nowhere. Forestalling the cleric’s drunken rage, the two explained that they were there to fulfill their debt to the group. They had not learned where Black Fang was, but they knew who did: Shalelu, the town ranger. Unfortunately, she had gone missing while investigating a mysterious magical research facility in a forest south of Sandpoint. The two Fleas wished the Busters well, provided a good location in the forest to start looking, and took their leave.
Travelling to the forest, the group of 4 came upon the spot the Fleas had mentioned. Their tracker Kiba found some old tracks, but no one had been through the area in several weeks. Nearby they found a cottage belonging to a surly dwarf. He warmed up to the group slowly, eventually telling the group the way to the facility as well as making a request of them. The local forest drakes had been harassing his garden, and he would reward them if they would bring him several drake tails.
The Busters easily found the drakes’ cave, and made short work of three of them. Returning triumphantly to the dwarf, they received an upgrade for Kiba’s bow and a menacing executioner’s mask for Gargantuon. They immediately headed back out into the forest to look for Shalelu, but they met something else instead. Feeling an overwhelming sense of Good, Kiba spied a rare animal off in the distance: a unicorn! After hesitantly allowing the ecstatic follower of Mielikki to stroke its mane, the unicorn led the group to a clearing where stood an ancient, ruined stone pavilion.
The trolls guarding it were anything but ancient, however! They debated over a still-breathing but unconscious Shalelu, unable to decide how to cook her. Zephus and Gargantuon, yelling their war cries, rushed in to distract the monsters while Kiba retrieved the fallen ranger. Elsbeth stood by to mend her wounds. After the trolls were righteously vanquished, Shalelu told the Busters the location of Black Fang’s swamp. Unfortunately, the lair of the dragon was protected by an ancient spell, rumored to have been created by some eccentric mages. Intelligence reports had led Shalelu to believe those mages were employed at the research center.
Promising the group that she could now return to Sandpoint on her own, Shalelu turned to leave. Spying a strange object on the ground back in the direction the group had come, she mentioned it to the Dragonbusters. Upon investigation it turned out to be a figurine of a unicorn. Kiba took it with reverence. Searching the area, they found several things: a stone door in the floor of the pavilion, a strange piece of metal, and a note. The metal appeared to be some sort of identification, belonging to the head of magical research, one Neddis Endry. The note spoke of danger and how the town must be warned. Using the piece of metal, the Busters opened the door and descended into darkness…or would have had it not been for Elsbeth’s Light of Lathander!
Inside, the group found themselves within what must have been the research facility proper. They split up to cover more ground. Several of them went in to offices, discovering some background information on the facility. Gargantuon had the misfortune of attempting to open a locked door that blew up in his face. They also discovered the corpse of a researcher. One of the notes they found mentioned someone’s colleague running up the stairs, locking the door, and promptly dying. The key now was in the possession of a demon!
Zephus himself found the demon, a vile and conniving Glabrezu. He seemed willing to deal with the adventurers, and Kiba was willing to test his mettle, but Zephus was having none of it. He knew demons well; they would never keep their bargains. He decided to carefully move into the demon’s chamber and attempt to open the chest at the back. Narrowly avoiding the circle of protection inscribed on the ground, he successfully retrieved the contents, one of which being a scroll of dismissal.
Meanwhile Kiba, Elsbeth and Gargantuon explored the side rooms. One appeared to be a magical item research room, where Gargantuon was attracted by some chainmail that called out insults to him. They also found a large mithril bowl Elsbeth could use for brewing. Moving on, they entered another side room. This one was filled with artificial limbs and other body parts. At the far end were some strange, wooden figures working on a much larger metal one. They discovered a half-built mithril cobra on a table that intrigued Kiba. As they moved to take it, the wooden golems at the end of the room turned to attack them! At first they only seemed to want to get to the other side of the room. The Busters were unable to deter them, and one of the golems pulled a large lever. Upon doing so, the large metal golem came to life! The group was now hard pressed, and Gargantuon took several wicked blows while protecting the others. Zephus arrived just in time to call the retreat, after the others had felled the wooden golems. Luckily the large metal golem was unable to fit through the person-sized door.
Turning back to the demon, the group knew they had to retrieve the key. They settled on a plan of action: Elsbeth would use the scroll to attempt to banish the demon. The demon was too strong, however, and the act of casting a spell through the barrier dispelled the magic protection. The glabrezu was loose! After taking a solid hit from Zephus, though, he stepped back and vanished. A key dropped to the ground where he had been, and the group took it and moved on.
Opening the locked door that Gargantuon had found earlier, the Busters found the stairs down to the next level. Here they found some more tragically murdered researchers. Kiba examined the bodies and declared that only drow could make such intricate cuts. Searching through a few more offices, the group learned that another key they needed was in possession of one Bob, and something named Ansafarilonyxia had laid an egg. Farther in they found a few inaccessible cages, one with a gelatinous cube and the other containing a family of rust monsters.
In the large chamber at the end of the cage hall, they found Bob, a curious beholder held in an ingenious trap. The chamber was lined with mirrors, effectively neutralizing the many eyestalks, and around the beholder was a magic barrier. Suspended magically in the air above the beholder was a humongous sword. If the beholder were to open its large anti-magic eye, the sword would be released and smash into the beholder. Thus, it was open to discussion with the Dragonbusters. The beholder told them it would give them the key in return for its freedom, but Elsbeth decided it wasn’t worth it. She took the demon’s advice from earlier, and pulled the left switch.
Instantly the mirrors swiveled around, freeing the beholder’s eyestalks. It immediately used its telekinesis ray to move the sword out of reach, and then opened its anti-magic eye to remove the magical barrier. Bob attacked! The group was initially worried, as Elsbeth was quickly turned to stone. Bob mused at how it couldn’t wait to study its new specimen, but reckoned without the combined muscle of Zephus, Gargantuon, and Kiba. The three quickly dropped it and hit the other switch, removing the cage over the chest and finding with a strange box, and a scroll of stone to flesh. Freeing their comrade, they mused a while over the adamantine box before decided to use the rust monsters to eat away the metal. Inside was a wooden box, which they had the gelatinous cube take care of. All that remained was a dragon shaped key.
They took this key and descended one more time, down a seemingly neverending ladder. Finally at the bottom, they found themselves in a huge cavern. Attracted by their abnormal amount of light, several creatures attacked the group. They quickly dispatched the initial group of umber hulk and hook horrors, but the final foe gave them some trouble. The strange ghost like figure could inhabit the bodies of those fallen, rising again to attack! It managed to paralyze poor Kiba, but in the end it was no match for the other Dragonbusters. Exploring a southern branch tunnel, the Busters discovered a grove of mushrooms. Elsbeth took some for her recipes and the group went back and took the northern passage.
At the end of the northern passage, they came upon a huge ornate marble door, with a single tiny keyhole. Also, on the ground lay one more mangled body. Identifying this as the work of drow, the Busters decided not to hang around. As they were about to open the large door, however, the light went out!
In the confusion, several of them were hit by unknown objects, but Gargantuon and his darkvision was unaffected. He took the fight to the lithe forms of the ambushers. Once Zephus had recovered, he used his hand to call upon the light once more. The sudden brightness momentarily blinded their attackers, who were revealed as a large force of drow! Their leader did not seem hurt by the light, as she merely laughed. Quickly recovering, the drow slowly started to overwhelm the companions. Kiba was struck with a poisoned crossbow bolt and went down, unconscious. The others decided to make a retreat, and, scooping up the unfortunate ranger, squeezed through the door just ahead of the pursuing drow, Zephus, the first through, had waited by the lever to close it just in time!
Out of danger for the moment, what new challenges await our heroes?