Chapter 7 began with our intrepid adventurers recovering from an odd fight with a crazy sorcerer and his swarm of spiders. After finally dispatching the old man, the group ventured into the Tri Tower Academy property to see if they could find a way in, and find out if their objective, the child slayer Traegar Grimvald was actually in residence. The grounds were dotted with black pools of various sizes, including a huge pool which seemed to swallow up half of the school building itself. With the intrepid druid Zenari in the lead, the group carefully made their way to a janitorial out building, and discovered that a trap door in the floor lead to a narrow, dark passageway that allowed the maintenance crew to access the school building from below. The group carefully negotiated the dark, slippery, slime-encrusted stairs down into a narrow stone hallway headed due east underneath the building.
Twenty feet into the passageway the group discovered a large 3 1/2 foot deep puddle blocking the passage; when Zenari went to investigate it, a black four foot long chirping insect leaped out of the dark water onto him! It was some kind of abnormally-sized water bug, and it tried to sink its fangs into the druid. Fortunately, he was able to fight it off and kill it. Upon further inspection it turned out there was an oddly preserved human torso inside the puddle, upon which the water bug had laid its eggs. The group removed a tattered dark blue silk robe from the torso, covered with black hand prints.
Deciding to try another way, the group left the passage and went back outside to investigate the large pool around the school building. There they found a corner of the building still on dry land; using several ropes tied together, the group managed to scale the outside of the school and reach the roof. At the remaining intact tower on the roof, the forced their way in through a window and discover a set of stone stairs leading to a platform with a door; the stair continued up to the next level of the tower, and also down into the building proper. The group elected to try the door on the platform; after Russ checked for traps, he was able to gain entry into the room.
This room was empty, apart from some wooden furniture, as though it happened to be unoccupied when the great earthquake occurred ten years ago. The party searched the room, but found little apart from a very nice area hand woven rug, depicting the fallen god Aroden, in an arcane battle with the mad wizard-king <u>Tar Baphon</u> at the Isle of Terror, stuffed inside a wardrobe. Next, the party went up the stairs to search the two rooms above. The first room searched turned out to be the bedroom of a young girl, Rhea Thrym, a student from Vladmirr, a coastal town in Iobaria. A number of nice things were discovered in the room, principally a magic ivory tube necklace and a magic bronze candle holder; some money (100 gp) was discovered below the floor boards, as well as a spell book, along with four low level arcane scrolls, and a three quarters sized decorated lute. The necklace was ivory inlaid with some kind of blue stone, and was enchanted with the Endure Elements and Mount (3rd level) spells.
The second room above was another bedroom, only this one was mostly destroyed by fire. The only object of real value was discovered in the back of the half-burned wardrobe: a magical cloak, which turned out to have been enchanted by a Protection Vs Chaos spell.
Going down the stairs to the next level, the party discovered the way was blocked by black water of indeterminate depth; the decision was made to leave the main building and return to the passageway under the school via the janitorial outbuilding. When the group tried to go outside, they discovered a bunch of rag-clad cultists wandering around the grounds looking for them; after a while, the cultists moved on and the party was able to access the under passage without alerting the enemy.
The group entered the passage again, and proceeded past the area with the puddle, and then found a flooded cross space: the passage continued on the other side of the 60' puddle, which was far wider, and receded into the darkness on either side. They could clearly see that more of the giant water bugs were infesting the black waters; Zenari determined that the creatures, if they were like the ones he'd encountered in his travel elsewhere, were aggressive when they were hungry, when their eggs or young were threatened, or when their territory was invaded. To get to the other side of the puddle required the party to invade the creatures' space.
Cowan decided to risk going across to the other side of the puddle with a rope for the others by utilizing a wooden drawer from the desk in the old janitorial building, and the group fashioned an oar out of broken wood to help him navigate the dark waters across. Lacking basic seamanship skills, plus the fact that the drawer, while it floated, was hardly built for water travel, the journey for the young halfling would be perilous – and in fact, it was made all the more difficult when Svala, while attempting to give the halfling a helpful push-off with a stick, instead punctured the bottom of the drawer with a critical fail – which meant that the drawer was gaining water, and Cowan had only a few rounds before his jury-rigged craft sank – and exposed him to the giant water bugs in the water!
The intrepid halfing tried as best as he could, but the drawer was not able to make it all the way across the flooded passage before it sank – risking life and limb, he made a huge leap across the void and splashed down right before the dry passage way on the other side! After that, Cowan was immediately set upon by several of the giant water bugs in the waters, a desperate battle for which he could expect little help from his friends on the other side. Russ tried to fire his bow at the creatures, but was of little use. When Saben, Svala, and Zenari all tried to get into the water and cross over to help Cowen, they too were attacked by the ravenous, aggressive water bugs!
Following a long and exhaustive battle, the party finally managed to kill all the water bugs and get over to the other side of the black puddle, where they stopped to lick their wounds and rest.