Still the 2nd day of Marpenoth 1375 Anya's analyze portal spell revealed a couple of limitations imposed by Halaster's portal to the Runestone Level: (1) users are only allowed to equip up to 10 pounds of metal each, and (2) each user must possess a ring of wizardry. Since the party has only one such ring, they decided to return to the surface to procure one more. Keli bought one from Aurora's and everyone headed back to the portal room to get some rest.
3rd day of Marpenoth 1375 As a last-ditch effort to gain additional information, Anya cast stonetell to ask the surrounding bricks questions about the portal and its users. The stones knew nothing of a switch to turn off the stasis trap, but they did reveal that a number of dark elves had entered after the old man used the portal, and they have not come out since.
As the group prepared to make their jump, Anya cast Rary's telepathic bond on the player characters and herself, while Rokh and Kiira removed their suits of armor and other heavy metallic gear, stored them in Rokh's portable hole, and took a ring of wizardry each. Everyone cast their buff spells and, except for the two clerics, climbed down the portable hole. Kiira also cast a grasping hand spell in case Rokh got stuck in the stasis trap.
Both clerics successfully made their saving throws against Halaster's multiple traps (feeblemind, levitate and, presumably, temporal stasis). They found themselves in a large cavern where human bodies lay dead on the ground, and eight pairs of feet were levitating above them within the light beam of the portal trap. The human corpses look liked adventurers in life, and had died within the last couple of days from whatever made the puncture marks on their bodies (probably drow crossbow bolts).
The rest of the party climbed out of the portable hole, and Rokh and Kiira donned their armor. Kiira used her grasping hand to retrieve one of the levitating bodies from the stasis trap—it was a dark elf wizard. Anya cast probe thoughts while it was grappled but nothing could be gleaned from it as, apparently, he was under the effects of a feeblemind spell. Kiira grabbed the rest and all were under the same effect. The group was able to loot a ring of wizardry from each of them, plus eight wands, 24 kyo crystals, and eight arcanabulae.
- 4 wands (unidentified)
- 8 arcanabulae [spellbooks]
- 8 rings of wizardry I
- wand of magic missile (25 charges)
- wand of protection from good (25 charges)
- wand of ray of enfeeblement (25 charges)
- wand of ray of flame (25 charges)
Right outside the cavern, the company could see through the shadowy illumination that there was another cavern—but much, much bigger, wherein a small hill sits at its center. Seth bade his shadows to scout around this great cavern; it took a while for them to return but they did find a small cave nearby. The company marched on, found the cave, and investigated inside. It looked to be a makeshift bedchamber of some sort (probably Halaster's) but already looted of anything valuable, as evidenced by the many bootprints that Seth was able to make out on the stony ground. Just then, three large earth elementals slid out of the stone walls, one appeared by the rear of the cave and two blocked the entrance. Keli immediately used disintegrate on the first, while Rokh and Kiira slew the other two after a couple of rounds. And during the encounter, Anya had noticed that her overland flight spell would not work, possibly another limitation imposed by the Mad Mage in order to grant his guardians an advantage against intruders.
After a few minutes of thorough searching, Seth and Anya found a small chest of magic items that the previous looters had apparently missed.
- potion of owl's wisdom +2
- potion of resist energy
- amulet of natural armor +2 (Shadow Weave item)
The company moved onward to the hill and found a footpath that wound around it at a shallow incline. Their fly spells and items still would not work; they decided to go up by taking the path instead of directly climbing up the steep, rocky hillside. Seth's shadows scouted ahead, with instructions to return immediately if they encounter a creature or a fork in the path. Moments later they returned, and Steve the shadow reported being attacked by a "flaming skull that shot magic out of its eyes". Rokh and Maneegah deduced that it was a flameskull, a type of undead spellcaster that looked like a flying humanoid skull wreathed in flames. Keli cast protection from energy (fire) on the vulnerable party members and marched on up the path.
As they walked up, a spectral hand attacked Anya with a vampiric touch spell. Seth spotted a scrying sensor right above them and Rokh was able to dispel it easily. But before the party could walk any further, two flameskulls flew in and attacked the party with fireballs. Keli and Rokh were able to take them down with ranged spells but not before the skulls could damage Kiira and Kendor with magic missiles. Eight more flameskulls attacked (Rokh, who had an active true seeing spell, saw only two) and were similarly killed by the spellcasters.
As they rounded the hill, Kiira once again was attacked by magic missiles, Kendor by two spectral hands, and Rokh by a ray of entropy from somewhere up at the top of the hill. Unable to reach their attackers, the party stood their ground—buffing, healing and shielding themselves from the attacks—hoping that the creatures would close in after their ranged spells have run out.
Seth, hidden all the while from their enemies, instructed his shadows to go ahead up the hill and used his wand of dimension door to jump up to find Rokh's attacker. However, his attempt was blocked by some sort of anti-teleportation ward, so he promptly reappeared in mid-air right above and fell some 80 feet down the side of the hill (but still above his original jump-off point, which is nice). He continued his ascent by climbing up the loose rubble onto the footpath. There, he found another cave entrance but decided to ignore it for the time being and continued on up.
Kiira cast air walk—the spell had unexpectedly worked so she immediately sought the source of the magic missiles that continually pummeled her to the point that she had to cast a heal spell on herself. She spotted another scrying sensor, and some distance behind it were twelve flameskulls. She cast true seeing and saw that, again, there were only two of them and attacked the closer skull with her warhammer. The skulls, realizing that they would not stand a chance against the dwarf, quickly turned their attention to Keli and unsuccessfully tried to hit her with their fire eye-rays. The sorceress cast firebrand on the skulls in order to get rid of the mirror images but she missed her disintegrate shot afterward. Knowing that they were outmatched, the flameskulls fled from the two women by flying straight up to the ceiling.
Meanwhile, Rokh and the three cohorts dimension door-ed from Anya's Otiluke's resilient sphere up to the part of the footpath where Seth saw the cave entrance. They spotted something glittering inside the cave but, like Seth, they decided to investigate it at a later time. They initially thought of using Keli's shadow walk to get to the top quickly, but decided against it since there was a pretty good chance that they would overshoot their destination point. Seth telepathically communicated that another creature was climbing up the hill ahead of him, probably Rokh's attacker, and that it sensed that he was in pursuit. Not wanting to delay any longer, Anya cast invisibility and gaseous form on herself and made her way up the side of the hill. Kiira continued to air walk to the top, while Keli joined the rest of the group as they walked on the path (which would take them roughly 5 minutes).
Seth reached the hilltop. It was a 20×20 shallow caldera that had a sort of stone table which could be described as a "control panel," and had depressions of different sizes and shapes. He kept still while he was trying to sense where his target was. But in a matter of seconds, Seth was covered in faerie fire and hit by three rays of enfeeblement. He saw four figures, presumably dark elves. Seth's shadows attacked the drow while he lay there unmoving—but not helpless—and he used his darkness ability to cover the entire hilltop in a black globe. Anya arrived just in time, cast blindsight, and covered Seth and herself in a resilient sphere. Anya "saw" the dark elves flee just as a rumbling sound the other side of the hill came, like a humongous creature was trudging its way to their position.