I, Naked Samurai, bear responsibility for their deaths. The nature of the dungeon is that numerous empty, dust-strewn rooms are lightly interspersed with objects, many without interest, and then combat is rare and sudden. It incumbent upon the party caller and mapper, who has immediate things to do, to keep everyone on their toes - party positioning was my decision. We missed signals about monster strength and failed to adjust, also my fault. The level was a bad choice.
Once reaching the Grand Stair, the party encountered four Carrion Crawlers advancing from a lower level and ran out, alerting the orcs in case they came to the surface. As they did not, we slept the night and went down again the next day. We explored the second level south of the wizard goblins, fireplace and troll, where we found the bottom of a spiked pit trap and a few rooms blackened in some kind of fire or explosion. In a bed chamber we were attacked from without by a team of zombies, who posed no great threat. A giant moth was also killed.
Exiting a tumbled-down mess hall, we ran face-to-face with a Wight, similar to the one we met before. It licked its lips and called expectantly instead of immediately attacking, which gave Hanna the chance to pitch a vial of holy water directly into its face, killing it instantly. A weak wight, but strong throw.
We found another room with the ethereal portals emitting blue light and knew not what to do with it. We need to examine these much more closely and maybe shut them down.
A room off of a gallery was covered in dull gray mold and had a bubbling pool behind a screen. We drew some water into a wineskin, but this is with the dead Farkas.
More chiseling around showed us these areas are beneath the Moar Bird aviary. We saw some greenish pustulence indicating their presence. The fact of the gnolls nearby suggests they are not nearly as strong as they once were, or are basically gone.
We battered on a locked door, hearing some barking voices inside. We set up ambush positions around the door but then were attacked from a stairwell behind us moments before the door was unlocked and more gnolls streamed through. The party was split in half. Only four of us, we could not regain position. A hardier party might have survived the encounter. Pritchard was smacked around, Hanna had to slam a Milk of Trianoma to regain some health. A gnoll group was put to Sleep on the stairs but still more came, and there was no rescuing Farkas and Karvenn. Lady Luck was not arriving: the gnolls rolled several natural 20s and the fighters could not land blows.
The halfling and magic-user fled, javelins and spears clattering at their feet. One gnoll had been charmed and was running accidental interference (whether he came with us is an unanswered question). Hanna directed them up the stairs in the gallery and then up a spiraling stairs that turned out to be the base of the Serpent Tower.
Karvenn and Farkas are dead and presumably eaten. No telling in five levels of fighter expertise taste better. The Company of Crossed Swords are reeling against the loss of good character and great pride and are organizing a war party to drive out the gnolls - hopefully for good - retrieving the remains and the valuable equipment.
Losses & Loot
Our heroes defeated a giant moth, five zombies, a wight and a gnoll. They gathered a few pieces of jewelry from the wight's remains. All told, each member of the party received 782gp.
For creatures defeated and wealth acquired, the two surviving party members each received 875xp.