Exit stage left. Time to get out, recover, and check out the loot. Been away for a bit, this is a bit of a catch-up post.
With the party sorely wounded, it's time: up and out, to camp, rest and recovery. Locky and Mordikarr make a quick check of the hallway to the west while the others get themselves organized, but they see no creatures, owlbear, bugbear, zombie, or other. Locky starts to go north to check out the tree room, but the others are all for leaving, so he reluctantly rejoins the main group.
As the group backtracks (cautiously) out of the maze, they close doors and set a few telltale threads across halls and doorways to see if the area is disturbed. Rawon struggles to carry the owlbear head for a while, then gives up, when he gets it all the way up the stairs, because the thing weighs a good 35 lbs. "Probably not worth anything anyhow," he mutters, before propping it atop one of the ruined walls in the ruin, out of sight from the ground, but still accessible.
As the group heads away from the ruin, north this time, to misdirect trackers, Rawon's sharp eyes detect tracks running around the perimeter of the ruin, and off to the northeast: five or six sets of bipedal footprints, but bigger than human-sized, broad and clawed. He follows them for a few-dozen yards, noting no splits or deviations. "Whatever they are, they're moving. No attempt to hide the trail, and the strides are long and deep."
The tracks make everyone nervous and the trip back to camp is slow and tedious, despite the pleasant weather. The wounded are staggering when the party finally gets back to the low ridge-line that marks the base that evening. Rawon and Dagmarten trail behind the group, obscuring tracks and hiding passage as best they can. Jonquil, Gorvil, and Saurabh are surprised to see the party back already, but when they see the battered state of the wounded, they rush to assist. Saurabh casts his healing spell on Raúguey before the big guy collapses on his bedroll, groaning. The other wounded follow suit with fewer groans and moans, leaving Durego, Rawon, and the other unwounded party members to describe the battle with the bugbears, kobolds, and bugbear.
With so many injured, the party maintains a low profile that night, Rawon, Mordikarr, Gorvil, Jonquil, Durego, and Dagmarten take turns. The next morning, priests cast their healing magics, and brew rounds of dwarf kettle for the wounded. By late afternoon, the combined healing of spells, kettle, and rest have restored the wounded.
Since Maro is resting and recovering, Ohwatoo gets first shot at the spell book. Rawon and Mordikarr spend the morning hunting near camp, and return with a fat antelope to show for their efforts. The fresh meat is a welcome addition to the dry rations and jerky. As the night falls, Maro devotes himself to studying the captured spell book, while the rest of the party begins to plan their next foray into the depths.
After the day's rest, recovery, and general hanging about camp, the party beds down for the night, setting the usual watches. Locky spends an hour or so fiddling with a continual light stone and the mirror, trying to figure out what it does, to no effect. It seems to be just a mirror, and a glass one at that. The workmanship is fine, and hints at, perhaps, Elvish origins, though the style is unfamiliar to Maro and Rawon. Locky suggests storing it well wrapped / padded would be a good idea.
The next day there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth among the magicians. Out of ink! There's also some good-natured grumbling among the troops when Raúguey claims the wolf's head armor, but it's clear Tesso is OK with switching to mundane banded. "Didn't look good on me anyhow," he says.
Ohwatoo prepares another continual light object [see below], and then makes his first trial of Identify, choosing to examine the mirror. After spending several minutes holding / examining the object, the wizard looks up in triumph, says, "Got it!" and then collapses on his bedroll! [He might be one of the smartest people in the world, but tough, he's not.]
Maro, who has been watching the process with interest, snatches the mirror before it can fall from the unconscious mage's hand. "Well, I guess I'm next," he mutters, before gesturing at the wolf's head mail. He dons the armor, and then casts the spell. After a few minutes of moving around with the armor on, he pauses to consider, and then says, "It has a protective enhancement, not all that powerful. There's something else too, but I can't get a sense of it." He shrugs and begins to remove the armor, staggering a bit as he does. "So tired," he mutters.
With the two magic-users incapacitated / weakened, it's clear another trip is not in the works for today. Rawon grabs Jonquil, Durego, and Mordikarr, and heads out to scout a location for the loot cache. Eventually they settle on a narrow crevice in the ridgeline, about two-hundred yards to the west of camp. It's well-hidden and easily covered by a few large stones. With that dealt with, Jonquil and Durego return to camp, while Rawon and Mordikarr spend the rest of the day on the hunt, a fruitless effort. Night falls as they arrive back in camp, where the restless group waits, killing time and waiting for Ohwatoo to wake up.
Another quiet night (you lucky lucky...). Ohwatoo awakens early, and feels fine. After a hasty hour of spell memorization and preparation, the group sets off for the Maze once again. As the party approaches the ruin from yet another direction, buzzards rise from the walls, and Rawon says, "At least we know there's no one lurking in the ruins."
Moving swiftly but carefully, the party heads down the stairs, through the pillar hall and the crypt, then down again. So far there are no signs that anyone or anything has passed this way. That changes when they get to the summoning room. There's a naked human male standing against the west wall, arms spread. At least that's what it looks like. After the initial shock, Raúguey moves a little closer and calls out, then gives a small cry of disgust. The man has been cruelly stabbed and slashed, and thick iron stakes have been driven through his forearms and mouth into the stone wall behind him.
Tesso says, "I know him! He was one of the surveyor's assistants! How... how did he get here?"
He moves forward for a closer look, but Raúguey stops him. "He's dead lad, leave him be for the moment." He gestures at Ohwatoo. "There's something written on the floor here, in blood."
Ohwatoo bustles forward while the rest of the party spreads circles the area. Rawon and Durego check the west hall while the others wait for Ohwatoo to decipher the crude scribbles. After a few moments mumbling, the mage speaks. "It's written in Goblin. It says 'Return what you have stolen and leave this place, or you and all the other prisoners will suffer this fate.'"
That brings us up to date, morning of September 1st, Year of the Badger, in the Wilds. I skipped over a bunch of the administrative details, like learning spells from the newly acquired spell book, and healing up, but this covers the meat of things. Now, onward and downward, or run away?