Session 51 began with the Fortune's Fools still trapped within the level of Dwimmermount known as the House of Portals. Knowing that a demon and a party of Eld were somewhere nearby, the party elected to be careful in their explorations. They wanted to find a way out of the level -- they badly need to re-supply -- or at least away from the Eld, whom they feared would overpower them in a straight up fight, particularly if the demon were with them. Consequently, the party moved slowly and cautiously, listening at each door, looking for any signs of recent movement, checking for traps, and generally being paranoid.
Looking at their map, there were several obvious avenues of further exploration. One led them to a room containing a large curtain covering one wall. Behind the curtain was an altar and a statue of a granite statue of a male figure in armor, wielding a maul. The altar was also made of granite and had no markings on it nor did it show any signs of having been used for blood sacrifice of any kind. On top of it was a ceramic jar, inside of which was a rusty reddish dust. Dordagdonar smelled it and found that it had an "earthy" scent. He then taste a bit of it and declared that it was in fact dirt, albeit of a strange coloration.
Moving on, the party came upon a room inside of which they heard growling animal-like noises. They entered and came across a beast known to all D&D players but which I'd not yet introduced into the campaign: the displacer beast. Overall, I've use a fairly small sub-set of the monsters available in OD&D + Supplements. My general feeling is that a campaign setting feels more "real," or at least coherent, if there aren't dozens of different intelligent races besides mankind and so many different kinds of bestial threats wandering the world that one wonders how the average non-adventurer survives. But I love monsters nonetheless and, when opportunities arise to use them, I take them. I'd decided, at just that moment -- I was stocking the dungeon as the players proceeded -- that displacer beasts were from Areon, the home of the Eld, and that the Red Elves used them as guards and pets. Like the demon, the Eld brought this creature with them as they explored Dwimmermount.
The displacer beast proved tougher than expected but not so tough that the PCs couldn't defeat it. From there, the party pressed further on, finding several more rooms, some of which showed both evidence of recent activity and had bits of reddish dust scattered about -- just like the dust in the ceramic jar near the statue. Following the trail of dust, the characters made their way down several corridors and discovered a room from which voices were emanating. Assuming that they were the Eld, they made an effort to surprise them by bursting into the room -- and succeeded. The Red Elves found themselves caught off-guard, which gave the PCs enough time to use a wand of paralyzation, which took out one of the three Eld. Another was caught in a hold person spell, leaving only one mobile and able to attack. This one, a warrior by the looks of it, did not break morale and continued to fight, dealing some damage to the party before being slain.
Then, came the inevitable interrogation. My players dislike questioning NPCs, because they're never sure of what questions to ask and because they're naturally predisposed to avoid being too cruel to their prisoners in order to get them to spill their guts. Regardless, the chief Eld, who wore attire that seemingly marked him as a magic-user (he carried a staff too), was strangely willing to speak to them. He identified himself as "Jallak, servant of Phytos Kan, archon of Morkoja" -- whatever that meant and the characters didn't inquire.
Jallak explained, in response to the questions that the PCs did ask, that he and his compatriots had been sent to Dwimmermount via a portal on Areon to see if the citadel was indeed again accessible to outsiders. You may remember that the dungeon had, long ago, been first an Eldritch base and then a Thulian fortress. During the fall of the Thulian Empire, its last commandant sealed it behind a magical barrier to prevent anyone from entering it and so it remained until just shortly before the campaign began. Now that the barrier had been lowered, quite a few power groups had taken an interest in it -- the cult of Turms Termax, Cyrus the vampire, agents of Adamas, representatives of a Thulian successor state to the south, and, now, the Eld. As Dordagdonar moaned, "For a fortress abandoned for centuries, this place sure sees a lot of visitors."
Jallak provided little other information except to point out that he'd seen a party of humans elsewhere on this level, which the PCs surmised were Termaxians, though they had no proof. He also alluded to the fact that Areon has long been without a ready source of azoth and that the entire reason the Eld had invaded so long ago was to acquire more for themselves. Indeed, Dwimmermount was originally a "refinery" of azoth, something the PCs suspected based on what they'd seen elsewhere. If Jallak is to be believed, the lower levels of the dungeon consist of magical devices intended to collect and process azoth for use by the Eld.
The party then took the weapons, armor, and equipment of the two surviving Eld and marched them into the portal room and sent them through it, back to their home world. To do this, Jallak threw a handful of the reddish sand through the "swirly Photoshop magic" of the portal, which then revealed a rusty red rocky desert. Jallak and his guard passed through it without incident and the portal shut down. At this stage, in need of rest and the re-memorization of spells, the party sought out a safe room in which to sleep. Before finding one that met their requirements, they came across a room filled with large containers, one of which they opened. Inside was what looked like swamp water. Broth Candor surmised that perhaps it, like the reddish dust, could be used to key the portal to a particular locale somewhere in the universe, but the theory was not tested before the session ended.
A good session that introduced some new elements to the campaign. A cornerstone of the way I run campaigns is to constantly throw out new characters, places, mysteries, and so forth, hoping that at least one or two of them might get seized upon by the players. I have only the vaguest ideas to carry me through. I mean, if the PCs went through the portal to Areon, I don't know precisely what they'd find there. I've got a lifetimes-worth of sword-and-planet material to draw inspiration from, of course, but that's not the same as having a lot of NPCs statted up or locations mapped out beforehand, so I'd have to wing it and see how it all unfolded.
But then that's my favorite part of gaming.