"We should make sure we're not walking into a trap, but we should also make sure we're not leaving a hostile force behind us," says Raúguey. "After all, we pretty much made a beeline here on the way in. We should backtrack to the entry level and check out the nearest rooms, make sure there's no ambush waiting for us."
"Well we need to be sure he doesn't turn this unfortunate isn't turned into a zombie." Maro strides forward, and hacks the corpse's head off! The body slumps stiffly forward, and the head twists sideways on the spike. Tesso frowns and turns away, clearly upset.
The grisly beheading done, the party reluctantly takes Raúguey's suggestion to heart. They backtrack and double-check the nearest rooms of the entry level: the crypts, pillar hall, and crevice room. Then they return to the first level and check the halls near the entrance, statue room, east hall, west hall, grate room, lever room, trog den, chamber of pits, cross hall, and the pit. Last they check the well room and reptile house. Faint slithery noises indicate the creatures are still there, so you make no effort to open the door. Most of the party's threads and indicators left in the halls have been broken or disturbed, indicating the hallways have been visited by one or more creatures since their departure two days ago.
Finally, a long hour later, the group turns its attention to the stairs down. Locky, Mordikarr, and Ingvild agree to scout ahead, with Locky using the mirror to scan the corridors, Ingvild looking for tracks and tricks, Mordikarr watching for movement in the shadows beyond Locky's glowing light-stone. Ten minutes later the trio returns to the top of the stairs. "No sign of anything. We checked all the way to the big hall," says Locky. "We should move downstairs and once everyone's in the fire room we can check further." The rest of the group agrees and everyone clatters down the stairs.
While the others wait, the trio scouts further, crossing the oil-soaked floor of the stubby hall, and then checking the tree room, then the death pit, the bugbear lair, and the south chamber. All quiet. Before returning to the group, Locky and Mordikarr open the ladder in the tree room once more, and check it with the mirror. Nothing. The narrow rungs lead down into darkness, descending further than Locky's light reaches. "No easy climb," mutters Mordikarr eying the claustrophobic shaft. "Only one go down. If something block the ends, all trapped. No good place. Suren might look, but not good climbing place for little one."
[Some time later...]
Locky looks up at Durego, "So you have it right? One quick tug for stop, two for go, multiple for get me out of here, and one long for pull up slowly."
"Right, right," answers Durego, watching as the halfling ties the rope around his ample waist. "Don't worry, we'll keep you safe."
Locky nods, slides through the narrow opening in the base of the tree pedestal, and places his feet on the lowest rung he can reach, testing its strength. "Feels solid. I'm going in," he says, and ducks into the shaft. Mordikarr and Ingvild pay out the ropes, one tied to the halfling, the other as a signal line, while Durego keeps watch down the shaft...
Meanwhile, Raúguey, Maro, and Rawon head south down the big hall to check out the Death Pit, while Ohwatoo, Tesso, and Dagmarten remain in the hall, ready to shout should trouble start in either location. As the trio enters the corpse-filled room, they fight to control their stomachs. "Shouldn't have had that jerky," mutters Raúguey, turning slightly green in his new mail. Nevertheless, the group advances to the edge of the great hole in the floor, illuminating more of the stench-filled space. The better light provided by two continual light sources reveals a larger space than anticipated. To the NW there is a squarish chamber with a door in the W wall, while S of the pit there is another chamber with a door in the S wall. A narrow railing separates the NW room from the pit. A narrow, greasy and bloody ledge wraps around the pit counter-clockwise, providing a treacherous connection between the three areas. The pit itself, well, who knows how deep it is? It's bodies all the way down, and no one wants to probe too deeply into that mess.
"I'm down!" calls Locky from the bottom of the 40-foot shaft. It wasn't a hard climb, but the space is tight. Larger folk will really have to squeeze. The rungs are solid, if rusty, all the way down. Curious, the halfling turns about in the narrow space, which appears to be... empty. The shaft simply dead ends, with no apparent means of egress, except for a few damp cracks in the floor. "How odd, could it be a well gone dry?" He spends several minutes rapping the walls and peering at rocks, to no avail. "Maybe the elves can see something I can't," he thinks, then calls up, "Coming up slowly!"
By the time Locky reaches the top, the others have rejoined the group in the hall. Both parties share what they found, and Rawon is ready to check out the bottom of the shaft. Maro shakes his head. "Let's finish checking this level before we go exploring tight tunnels. Those bugbears were large, I doubt they went down that small shaft. I want to kill that necromancer!"
There are nods of agreement from the others, so the group heads south and then into the room they determined was the creatures' lair. As soon as they enter, they can tell someone's been here. The entire area has been searched, sleeping pallets tossed and torn apart, table overturned, and the few mundane items left after the party's search scattered. In the NW corner, a stone panel hangs open, revealing a small secret chamber beyond. Empty. "Damn it all!" cries Durego, peering through the small doorway. "We should have searched this place more thoroughly before we left!"
"All the more reason to find out where the necromancer went. He took something with him, and I want it!" growls Raúguey, heading for the single door in the S wall. "Let's see where this goes." He gives the door a shove and it swings open with a creaky-groan, revealing a small 12x12 foot chamber. "There's another door in here," he calls, and moves forward to investigate. Abruptly, he finds himself walking on air! "Ahh!" he shouts, clawing at the edge of the hidden pit as he falls! Too late. His grip fails and he falls, landing with a heavy thud on the stone floor 25 feet below! [12 Damage - Yeowch!]
Ingvild and Dagmarten rush to assist, and Dagmarten barely avoids falling in as well: the illusion covering the 10-foot wide hole is perfect. Ingvild grabs his brother before he falls. Durego moves to assist, pulling out the rope that so recently supported Locky during his descent. The trio hauls Raúguey up, and Dagmarten casts a healing spell upon him. [7 Healed]
The search of the lair proves fruitless, and the party can see no easy way to reach the door in the W wall of the little room — there's no place to stand in front of it, just pit. They turn their attention to the double-doors in the S wall of the lair. These open into a broad hallway running S, then W. It ends 60 feet or so later in a single door. The group advances cautiously, Raúguey's fall providing incentive to caution. Ingvild examines the door and finds no trick or trap; Raúguey works the latch and shoves. More hallway, running S, then W, and... arrow slits. Before yanking the door shut, Raúguey spots another door at the far end of the L shaped hall. "Well that's a trap for sure," he says, describing the scene for Ohwatoo, who has been keeping the map (and is now reduced to sketching with bits of charcoal).