Continuing the exploration of the third level of the crater, the party quickly stumbled upon a secret door leading to a spiral staircase leading down. A cold waft of air they felt as they opened the door suggested that the staircase descended to great depths. Having already skipped the 2nd level of the dungeon, this party of 1st to 3rd level decided that going even deeper could only be a good thing. Oddly, most of the players have played Diablo.
They descended the staircase for half an hour before it ended in a passageway sloping downward, and followed it to discover that it was a switchback path leading even deeper into the bowels of the earth. A day and half later found them still descending, when they heard footsteps ahead and saw the soft glow of lantern light in the distance. Coming up the path was a Drachmari elf named Talarion traveling with a dwarf, and two humans. The party attacked without warning, casting, sleep and hold person, which left only the dark elf able to fight back. They questioned the elf, and learned that the band of strangers hailed from the subterranean city of Dragotha, which meant 'hidden city' in the dwarf tongue and were on their way up to the crater to trade with Sothiss the necromancer.
The party was dismayed to learn that Sothiss, the object of their quest, was a day and half's travel back the way they had come - uphill this time. Apparently bypassing levels isn't always a good idea. Who knew? They were able to turn this chance encounter to their advantage, however, by convincing Talarion and his band to aid them in slaying Sothiss in exchange for a large sum of gold and first pick of Sothiss's treasure hoard.
Since Talarion and his band had done business with Sothiss on several occasions, and were expected by him, meeting with the necromancer was an easy matter and the party posed as Talarion's helpers. The plan was that Talarion and his band would wait until the party attacked with surprise and then join in to slay the necromancer. The only hitch in the plan was that when the time came, none of the PC's wanted to be the one to initiate the attack. They delayed until the business transaction with Sothiss was complete - rare subterranean fungi in exchanged for zombie slaves to be taken back to Dragotha - and Sothiss dismissed the mercenaries and returned to his lair. The opportunity was lost. To make matters worse, Talarion and his band no longer wanted to be part of such half-assed treachery and felt that since they no longer had any legitimate reason to be in Sothiss's dungeon, there was no chance of getting close to him without arousing suspicion. Thus, Talarion and company took their zombie coffle and departed for the depths of Dragotha, leaving the PC's to go necromancer-hunting on their own.
The party now had no idea where Sothiss was in the complex and hand to search room by room until they found him. When they finally did track him down, the necromancer was, indeed, immediately suspicious of attack. The only thing that saved the party from horrible doom was a lucky first initiative roll that allowed them to close to melee range, followed by some exceptionally lucky saving throws against Sothiss's spells. Caught alone without any undead protectors Sothiss, quite predictably, fell quickly to the sharp steel blades of the party. Though the PC's completely pooched a beautiful plan, they managed to triumph through dumb luck.
After looting the level and recovering the mysterious orb that Brother Frosk demanded as payment for resurrecting Jin, the party instead of returning to the Flaming Faggot, elected to head down the long path to Dragotha and explore the fathomless depths below. As heavily laden as they are it is going to be a long trip...
Welcome Back to the Labyrinth
"We have been away far too long, my friends," Ashoka declared, his face lit by the eldritch green glow of his staff. "But we have finally returned to the labyrinth whence our adventures first began."
"Just imagine the treasures that lie within," said Yun Tai, flexing his mighty muscles. "Wealth enough to live in luxury the rest of our days."
"And arcane artifacts of great power," added Ashoka his words dripping with avarice. "All ours for the taking!"
"Umm...guys?" Nysa interrupted. "Do you hear something dripping?"