The following game session, the first in this story, began on the evening of March 6th, 2011, and concluded in the morning of March 7th.
*A banker from House Kundarak approached them in a tavern with a job offer: go investigate the vault of a guardian who had stopped checking in and retrieve the item that he was charged with guarding, a treasure chest that belonged to the House that, reportedly, contained nothing. The banker seemed to be telling the truth about that, but hiding something else.
*S. Danger, Human Ranger, managed to roll well enough to cut 4.5 miles off of the 5 mile trek out of town to the area with the cave by rolling a natural 20 on a survival check. He just happened to know a magical shortcut through a tree.
*The cave entrance was filled with a huge amount of stalagmites and stalactices that acted as narrow pillars that obsctructed both movement and vision. However, it didn’t keep the kobold thief hiding behind them from being spotted. Diplomacy was attempted, but the kobold fired an arrow, prompting dual-rapier wielding D’artagnan to leap down the cave mouth, brachiating through the stalactites and -mites with ease thanks to a nat. 20 tumble check (effectively turning the difficult terrain into quite easy terrain), and felled the kobold with a single blow.
*Deeper in, the cave turned into more worked stone instead of rough cave stone, and the stalactices and stalagmites were gradually replaced with pillars. Oddly photosensitive plants bordered the walkway which lead up to the [[:Door of Dials | vault’s gate]]. A combination of wordplay, device disarming, logic, and brute-force-mathematics led to the gate being opened very easily.
*The chamber beyond the gate was a very relaxed room topped with a massive Sunstone Crystal that illuminated it with a perpetual Daylight spell. The room also contained a tree with three types of plum-like fruit: the green made the eater sick, the red made the eater feel healthier, and the violet was just normal, tasty fruit (possibly a generic plum? Who can say for sure?) No one knows. Two passages left this room: the passage to the right was ignored entirely, while the passage to the left was explored.
*The passage led to a workroom or laboratory of sorts with a massive table, a bookshelf, chalk drawings on several surfaces, lots of broken or useless looking equipment, a few scattered books not on the shelf, and other various tools of the trade. The only things of note were the ersatzdragon that woke up from a nap on the table (basically a pseudodragon but black colored and with an angrier, more evil disposition), and a gibbet hanging from the ceiling that contained a skeleton. After the ersatzdragon attacked the intruders (though it was pretty much immediately fascinated, sneak attacked and killed) the skeleton in the gibbet spoke to the party. When the party provided proof that they were there because House Kundarak had sent them, the skeleton told them that it saw a small gang of kobold cultists, led by a sorcerer named Varn, storm the Vault and kill its Guardian while searching for the artifact rumored to be there (a treasure chest). The skeleton had lied motionless without revealing itself to the cultists as he “had a function to fill” which (after some haggling) was revealed to be the fact that only he could make the treasure chest findable, which he agreed to do when the security issue of the kobolds was handled, effectively requiring proof of the death of Varn. He helpfully told the party that beyond the doorway would be a lengthy stretch of halls leading to the Marble Hall where Varn and his cultists kept working on finding a divination ritual that might lead them to the coffer. According to the skeleton, beyond the door would be a massive swarm of bees that the kobolds already knew the secret to passing (he gestured to a [[:The Secret Arts | book]] that revealed a ritual for causing bees to return to their hive if you threw sand at them and said an ancient phrase. He also warned of a “living spell” called The Sleeping Sickness haunting a portion of the halls, but apart from that he couldn’t be much help.
*Sand being readily available in the mostly useless collection of spent spell components in the lab, the door was opened, the wall of bees revealed, and the bees flew back to their hive (located in a series of holes and cracks in the wall.)
*The Sleeping Sickness was easily avoided as it moved slowly. It had been waiting around the corner for them and tried to hit it with a slam attack as they moved by, but it wasn’t a challenge. It occupied a square-shaped tunnel, so the adventurers merely ran down the hall that it wasn’t in every time they had to.
*Still running from the (probably pursuing) Sleeping Sickness, they ran down the 40-foot long corridor, only to have D’artagnan accidentally hit a tripwire at the halls’ end. This started some rumbling machinery which convinced the Sleeping Sickness to leave that hall, and a series of spears began piercing downwards from the ceiling into the hall. With only some light injuries on D’artagnan’s part, Cher Chang Gu used mage hand to snap off one of the spears as it started retracting back into the ceiling, thus providing a safe place for the party to huddle while the trap eventually rumbled to a halt (after four turns of operation.) After this, the lock on the door proved easy enough to disable.
*The chamber beyond was a large marble hallway filled with pillars and statues of basilisks made out of an orange variety of jade (similar to the House Kundarak coat of arms.) The three remaining kobold cultists (including their leader, the sorcerer Varn) were chanting around a fire, trying to uncover a divination ritual that might lead them to the artifact that they had heard rumors about. Moving quickly, the party hid long enough for D’artagnan to move into prime position for a sneak attack and managed to kill all three cultists with a single surprise round. As Cher Chang Gu said, with Varn’s head they went galumphing back (a line that earned Cher fifty bonus experience points.)
*Seeing the deceased Varn, the skeleton in the gibbet’s eye sockets flashed blue, and he informed them of a variation of the Maze spell that he had just activated in a certain book on the bookshelf. He told them not to solve it instantly, and after the maze settled down it would allow them to find the treasure chest. He also requested that when they had it and left, they tell someone at House Kundarak to come and retrieve him.
*The Maze spell in the book took the party to an Escherian location at first, but by not trying to solve the maze it gradually morphed into a more simple looking maze of roughly worked stone. There was also a map lying on the floor, as well as a glowing manifestation of the book that they used to reach it. They discovered that the map of the maze had unconnected passages, and writing on the back of it. By folding the maze, they made passages connect to new places, leading them to eventually find a “Happy Mask” a “Less Happy Mask” and a “Honey Bee Hive”, all ethereal spirit creatures that had recently taken up residence in the space that the maze-spell linked to (which made them significant enough to appear on the map, for some reason.) Eventually by employing some less expected topography, a stable connection to The Chest was found on the map, which appeared to be a small, glowing image of a treasure chest. When touched, it teleported the party to the large marble hallway where they killed Varn. This time, however, there was an average-sized treasure chest sitting on one wall, conveniently on an easily moveable wagon for the sake of transference.
*After taking pains to unlock the chest and discovering that it was empty, Cher Chang Gu recalled some whispered rumors about a sequence of seven treasure chests called “The Coffers of Kundarak” developed by House Kundarak that, when opened in sequence, could teleport you to (roughly) the location of the next chest but if opened out of sequence did nothing. They decided that this chest was probably one of those seven coffers. While they did not know any rumors about what the last chest held, the temptation to pursue the other six chests was great indeed.
*The night ended with the party debating whether or not to conclude their contract with the banker or to go in search of the other chests, or some combination of the two.