With the holidays upon us, it's getting more difficult for all of the regular players to participate. This session we were short two players again:
Aelaran the Resilient (male cleric), played by Bret
Cadie Stone-Spar (female dwarf), played by Jaime
Garen-Gen (male halfling), played by Dan
Magda the Witch (female magic-user), played by Chris H.
plus their retainer, Ralan the elf
After being thrown into some subterranean river rapids, this session found the Company of the Closed Fist washing ashore in a series of caverns apparently called "the Hall of the Toad-King", inhabited (appropriately enough) by a race of toad-men. There was no sign of the two doppelgangers that had likewise been thrown into the river, or of the thieves, Fingers and the Purloiner. (To avoid having to continue fudging what Thomas and Chris V.'s characters were up to while their players were absent, I ended up declaring that they were apparently thrown overboard during the perilous underground river-rafting journey. They will hopefully rejoin the Company at some point.)
Once admitted through a series of portcullis gates, the party was instructed to take buckets of fish innards and cross a nearby bridge, throwing the guts over the side as they went. The Company did as instructed, which allowed them to avoid being devoured by an enormous, four-headed toad. They were then essentially herded and locked into a cavern dubbed the "guest quarters". Their chamber adjoined a makeshift prison in which were kept three prisoners:
a scoundrel named Aldrous, who was exploring Ebler's Tower before it was toppled, captured by orcs, and apparently delivered to the toad-men for reasons unclear,
an amnesiac, dubbed "the Sun Warrior" by Aelaran, who the party has ascertained may have been an adventuring Hosarite priest before he was supposedly was assaulted by "mushroom creatures" and then awoke in the prison, and
a toad-man called "Six-Failed", shunned by his people for his strange habit of turning to stone rather than entering torpor (as the rest of his kind do) when a certain gong is struck.
After "the Hours of Mystery" (as the toad-men's period of quiescence is called) ended, the Company were allowed to leave their quarters and explore the Hall. They attempted to gain audience with the Toad-King, but were rebuffed. Some guidance from Zaraag, a toad-man sushi pedlar, led them to explore the area from which the gong that signaled "the Hours of Mystery" sounds. They found themselves in an almost mystical setting attended by a trio of toad-man ascetics, who were both more accommodating and more cryptic in their interactions with the Company than their kin, giving the party healing tea and also dispensing strange aphorisms. The lawfully-aligned members of the Company began to piece together that something ill had befallen the toad-men -- possibly engineered by the Toad-King. A visit to the pagoda of Uobo the Butcher nearly confirmed their suspicions that the amnesiac prisoner was indeed a cleric of the sun-god cult, but the session ended with the party quite mystified.
This was another combat-free session, and the whole endeavor felt a bit "off" to me. Not every session is a hit. I did try my best to entertain the players with the often bizarre behavior and environs of the toad-men, and mostly succeeded (I hope), but there's been some discussion of leaving the place as soon as possible, as the players were somewhat baffled -- or possibly just bored -- by what they found.