After regrouping and resting for spells and healing, the party returned to the room where they fought the shapeshifter. They weren’t able to enter the small tunnels he escaped down, but they had found six potions of Improved Reduce Person in the chest he had left behind. After some consultation, it was determined that the duration of the potion should be at least five hours, but they’d have no good way to determine exactly how long it would last, so time was of the essence once they shrunk themselves.
Virko: Dammit, I’m gonna turn into a rodent!1
Sensei: Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go!
Priest: Oh, do shut up.
The potions shrunk them down to 1/4 their normal size. This had a variety of effects on their stats and gear, making them weaker but more agile, decreasing their weapon damage, and slowing their movement. They crept down the tunnel and found themselves in a small den with three badgers, who were immediately hostile. A fierce battle ensued, which the heroes eventually prevailed, discovering in the process that the shapeshifter was, indeed, a were-badger. The room was searched and some more of the lycanthrope’s treasure was found, but there wasn’t much time to wait around, since the timer on their potion was ticking away.
Priest: No rest for the….are we weary or wicked?
Pressing on with the aid of the crude map they had found along with the potions, they came to a large cavern with a stream running through it. Of course, in their diminutive size, the 7-foot wide river looked more like 30 feet. there were, however, three stepping stones in the center of the stream, which the druid decided to use for crossing. Unfortunately, he fell in and was attacked by a large cave trout, which thought these smallish adventurers looked like a tasty morsel. Unfortunately for it, they made fairly short work of it by virtue of just shooting arrows at it from the surface.
Sensei:Does anyone know the odds of shooting fish in a barrel?
The party wandered through more twisting caverns, making their way through a large rock-strewn chamber (and not staying long enough to find out what might greet them if they waited a bit), and crossing a crude rope bridge across a cavern. (I say “rope bridge”, but it was really just a rope. Fortunately, the thief was able to make a zip harness with her rope use skill and get them across without too many unnecessary skill checks.)
At last, the came to a smallish chamber with a ledge on the far side of the room, perched on top of which was a small dragon-like creature. It waited until they filed into the room, then immediately hit the party with what they mistook for fire breath from a baby red dragon. (In fact, it was a Burning Hands spell). They engaged the dragon and were well on their way to dispatching it when it suddenly began to talk telepathically to Virko, the main fighter of the group:
Dragon: Wait! Wait! Please don’t kill me! Don’t kill me!
Virko: Boy, did you pick the wrong party member to talk to!
The dragon, pleading with the party, offered them a pair of magic bracers, and also hinted that he could tell them who was behind the stuff going on in the town. Reluctantly, the party ceased combat and began to converse with the creature, actually a pseudodragon, who revealed that his name was Blackspine. From him, they learned a number of interesting things, in exchange for promising to spare his life:
1) Blackspine was the companion to a long-dead recluse who was a disciple of the god Crypticus, a deity with domain over secrets and forbidden lore.
2) The ringleader of the theft ring was, in fact, Melchor, the chief magistrate of the town whose mayor had requested the party’s assistance.
3) Melchor had, in fact, hired the assassin that killed the previous mayor, and was quite frustrated by his subsequent failure to secure political control.
4) The were-badger was under Melchor’s control and was the agent carrying out the thefts.
5) Melchor was using the monies gained from fencing the stolen goods to finance the hiring of a band of goblins to sack the town, during which the mayor would be killed and Melchor would be seen to heroically aid in the town’s defense.
At the end of the conversation, the party also insisted that Blackspine return any parts of his treasure horde which were on their list of goods stolen from the town, and promised to leave him alone after that, and began to prepare for the task of taking on Melchor himself.
Will they succeed? Does the crafty scoundrel have a few more tricks up his sleeve? We’ll find out next time, when our heroes once again form….a Defensive Perimeter.
1Virko, for reasons unknown, divides almost all creatures into two catagories: anything smaller than, say, a godlden retriever is a “rodent”, and anything larger than that is a “doggie”.