As is her wont, Squid had asked for the day off in the middle of the dungeon without notice, apparently she had to go the her sister, Chelsey Bryce's wedding to longtime boyfriend, Darren (also father of their daughter, Bailey). Put in a difficult situation, Chops had no choice except to get a temp in. Not a hireling like Fat Harold, but an actual full Paragon level locum. At that sort of notice, the only available volunteer was:
Thelonius Monk 11th Level Monk
A spiritual traveller, we don't know much about him yet.
Carrying on from the incident with the evil twins, the party (Chops, Crow, Fat Harold and Thelonius) searched for a while before taking the decision to explore the complex a bit more. Finding another trapdoor, Crow emerged inside a filthy cave. Pulling themselves up, the party found themselves in an unpleasant mini-dungeon containing several crypts. A vicious fight with three tough undead ensued, although the idea that this smaller dungeon was extra-planar had been seeded. A few trips up and down the trapdoor revealed different contents of the mini-dungeon. Another fight with some angelic statues in an unhappy setting, and later the exploration of the same area, but abandoned.
Giving up with the area, the party took an extended rest before having a second go at the casino room. A shocking lack of non-combat ability and street smarts (in the absence of Squid) saw the Psionic Defender, Crow sitting at the table to play the enchanted game tables. As it turned out, there were psychic punishments for not winning, and Crow showed some gaming addiction. After significant pain, the table was defeated but the party decided to beat a hasty retreat to the great outdoors again.
Climbing a cliff appeared to be a task that Chops could apply himself to, although one would have thought that the unarmoured monk might have been a better choice. Falling heavily twice did not deter him, and eventually the climb up the bluff to the top of one of the rope ladders did work out in the end. An Indiana Jones-type map room was accidentally revealed by GM mistake, before the party negotiated one of the rope bridges (Fat Harold being the only one having trouble) and explored the outside of the complex. Identifying several structures that had been explored and a few that hadn't, Chops kicked down the door to an area that he didn't recognise. It turned out to be a tapestry room - and containing yet another device, this time an internal sundial of some type. A bad guess of the correct time by Thelonius resulted in a damaging fight with some Mad Wraiths, and although Chops was reluctant, they tried again and got it right. A secret door opened and allowed access the central chambers of the structure.
Within, the party came up against the most dangerous foes yet - firstly a wave of undead eladrin knights (retaining their Fey Step), followed by a huge bruiser of an undead Firbolg - which rattled the party by effectively being able to nullify the powerful Crow, with the ability to drain Healing Surges and being resistant to forced movement coupled with a strong riposte if it were attempted. Switching tactics, the party pooled firepower against the knights, whilst Crow used basic attacks only on the Firbolg Shell.
The "Ivy Heart" mentioned in the poem at the beginning manifested itself during this battle, as a terrifying plant-form with a gemstone eye. A powerful opponent, it seemed to take exception to Harold's flame powers and several rounds of combat revolved around the Ivy Heart grabbing Harold and attempting a "Soul Drain" before the rest of the party struggled to free him before he met a sticky end. Finally, the Ivy Heart switched tactics and held action to act after Harold. Fortunately, it missed it's big attack, and was destroyed in the climactic round.
The final corridor led to a large pentagonal chamber containing some sort of "Fey Engine" made of precious gems, wood and organic matter. It appeared to be focusing energy for some effect. Chops kicked out one of the supporting staves and destroyed it before the party scrambled round to retrieve any expensive-looking components.
The demise of the Fey Engine freed the Fey creatures from their madness, and the team were able to return home successful for tea and medals, with their reputation as a top level force enhanced.
What next? Well, there were levels for many of the party, but there has been significant ongoing tension with Harold. Chops will no doubt pretend to have a plan for the future.
From the GM side of the table:
Had probably his most effective session yet. Soaked a lot of damage, healing is as good as it could reasonably be and the tactical powers were well utilised. Most of all, he's settled into either the MBA or the Opening Shove for at-will. Might be time to switch out the old Stalwart of Wolf Pack Tactics.
Very good at keeping the party safe - as long as they can stay together. Suffered only when the Firbolg Shell proved to be a perfect counter, but was generally solid and reliable. Much more control than most defenders should have any right to expect.
Had a poor start from comically bad die rolling, but recovered well. Good damage, good defences, but did struggle when hit.
Has almost made Paragon, but is unhappy about the level of activity he's having to undertake, and the lack of protection being afforded him. As a ranged striker, he's convinced that his role is to stand a long way away and pour fire and lightning on the enemy from absolute safety. Doesn't like the party policies of bunching together close up in tight corridors and small chambers. Also suffering from a urinary tract disorder, with the imminent return of Squid, he's been making noise about taking a sitting down job in a Tech Support call centre for T-Mobile.