The glow of the fires of Gracklstugh was on the horizon long before the actual city could be seen. Soon, the glow was joined by the smell of smoke. Before the group could see much detail about the city, Rael and Alphys saw what appeared to be the silhouette of a dragon against the orange glow. This alarmed Rael, but the oars were manned by the two strong Dragonborn, who continued rowing toward shore.
As the boat approached town, the group saw the eastern docks were less used than the western docks. Noticing that the Darklake Docks district of town was extremely bustling with folks from dozens of races, an “Act like we own the place” approach seemed to be the best choice, though, so they sailed up to the western docks.
Our heroes made it almost to the end of the dock before they met some of the folks who actually do own the place. A pair of Duergar halted them, and asked for their documentation. Rael started off, “You’re never going to believe this, but…” and related the story of the incursion of Demogorgon. Rael was correct: They didn’t believe it. One of the duergar made a hand signal and they both held their weapons at the ready.
Alphys tried to talk the situation down, chuckling. She explained that they were just simple traders, trading in used arms and armor. This somewhat defused the situation, but four more Duergar city guard arrived during the discussion, including a sergeant.
Reinforced and facing his superior, the guard moved back to plan A: Arrest the interlopers. Alphys, however, had managed to convince the guard to do it peacefully.
As the group approached the jail, Rael pointed out sardonically, “Ah, a jail. Next stop, our return to enslavement.” __________, a slave all his life, flipped out. He was not going to return to slavery. He stopped suddenly, chanting some arcane words that he’d never used before, and a ball of flame exploded over the Duergar city guard. Rollin leapt to action as well. Goldie charged in and was surrounded instantly, while the group learned that if you see one Duergar guard, it turns out there’s probably three more invisible ones with him. A group of eighteen Duergar returned to visibility behind the group, looming and threatening and trying to defuse the conflict before it got worse.
Goldie was having none of that. He deftly dodged a half dozen thrown javelins from the guards behind the party, and charged into the group in front. They swung their picks at him, infuriating him, but not doing enough damage to stop him from grabbing the sergeant amd brandishing the duergar as if he were a weapon. Threaten slavery to Goldenrod, and you’ve been reduced to food in his mind.
Twelve of the duergar behind the group grew to twice their original size, still attempting to defuse the conflict before it got worse. The group decided a running battle was probably their best bet of both escape and survival, and started to disengage to the west. Rael illuminated the giant duergar with Faerie Fire, while Wynn lit up her sword with a Daylight spell, nearly blinding the enemy. Unfortunately, it became clear that they were going to have to come back for Goldie— the sergeant that Goldie was holding high in the air also magically doubled in size and octupled his mass. Even as strong as Goldie is, finding himself under nearly a full ton of grey dwarf seemed to distract him that even dazzled the grey dwarves beat him unconscious.
As they bolted, Eldeth Feldrun ran as their rear guard (or perhaps she was just slower than everyone else…). They took to the rooftops to evade pursuit. Any pursuit was half-hearted at best; they were pretty sure they weren’t being followed only a half mile later.They began to scheme on how to break their friend out of jail.
A bruised and battered Goldie was shaken awake by a single guard to find himself in a solid stone cell. On the other side of the thick stone bars, a grey dwarf spoke. “I am Captain Errde Blackskull of the Stone Guard,” she said. “Let me begin by saying that you are worth less than nothing in my town. Most of my peers would simply enslave you and be done with it. I, however, have found that your sort can be useful given a little leeway. And direction.”
Captain Blackskull went on to describe a Derro named Droki, who has been giving the Stone Guard fits. Her men have not been able to capture this Derro. While her men are well-trained, adventurers are known for thinking outside the box, and perhaps they would have better luck.
“Sure, I’ll find him. We’ll find him,” Goldie said. "I’ll need papers for my friends. And a map.
Meanwhile, the rest of the gang started to formulate a plan. Even with the cosmopolitan nature of Gracklstugh, neither Alphys nor Homie would fit in, so Rael cast Invisibility on them. Rollin used his magic to obscure the group’s details so they otherwise wouldn’t be as obvious. He would use his impeccable sense of direction to lead the group on a circuitous path back to the jail, where they could then assess the situation and see how they could break in.
As they wound through the Blade Bazaar, a voice screamed out of a mystic’s tent. “YOU! I’ve seen you before!” The group knew their disguise was good, she couldn’t be talking about them, could she? “I’ve know your symbol, the one of Mishakal, a god not seen neither here nor in the Overworld! I’ve seen you! Come inside, quickly!”
At this point, Wynn was certain that the woman was speaking to her, as she’s pretty much only heard the name of her deity from the one who taught her and now, this one person. They duck into the mystic’s tent.
The mystic tells them of a darkness that has touched the land, and even how the darkness as touched that group. She described how the “tall one” was untouched even though Alphys was invisible, and how the “short one” was more touched by this madness— which matched up with what they’d seen on the boat, where Alton ranted and raved for hours after seeing Demogorgon. She said that she had seen Wynn in her visions, and she would be instrumental against the darkness. Then she gave them a rough stone with an image carved on one side. “You should have this. It’s very important.”
Wynn thanked her for her kindness, and the group took to the shadows again. Soon enough, they were overlooking the jail, assessing the defenses. As they watched, they saw the front door open for a moment, and close again, reminding them that they not only faced the defenses they could see, but also invisible duergar.
They discussed a bit longer and the door opened again. This time, something visible stepped out. It was a dragonborn, gnawing on a roasted leg of rothi. Goldie sat down on the front steps. Alphys, still invisible, approached, startling Goldie, which startled the guards, but they settled down a moment later, muttering something about how Captain Blackstone’s strange ideas were going to get her killed. And hopefully not them, too.
Reunited with the group, Goldie suggested they head toward the Ghohlbrorn’s Lair, the one inn in the Darklake District that would accept outsiders, and he would tell the story there. He told them about his discussion and that he was commissioned to find “Dorki.” He handed them all papers documenting legal status in town, and a half-hearted apology to Sarith Kzekarit for “forgetting” to get papers for him.
The group rested to heal up and renew spells, and woke to find Homie coughing up black phlegm and having troubled breathing— the soot and the air had gotten to him. Some of Wynn’s healing magic cleared it up quickly. They also realize that if word gets back to Droki that the group is looking for him, it will be harder for them to sneak up on him. Rael casts invisibility on each of the Dragonkin to make them less obvious.
Rael asked one of the staff in the common room of the inn, only to find that she thought all Derro pretty much looked the same. “You could try that mystic in the Bazaar. She knows everything.”
They proceeded back to the mystic, who was a bit surprised to see them. When they presented the picture of Droki, she said, “Oh, is he one of your group? I’ve never seen him. Perhaps he doesn’t survive until you fight the demons. I’m so sorry.”
Stepping out of the tent, they see Droki, a Derro who’s fashioned his rags into something that almost looks like a jacket. He wears a hat with the tentacles from a displacer beast sewn in, and very nice boots. Goldie, still invisible, sneaks up and is certain he’s grabbed the small Derro, only to find that he’s grabbed thin air. Droki shoots off like a rocket through the crowd. Even through the smoke and stench, he’s still no match for Homie’s nose, who leads them to a small crack between two buildings. It’s too small for most of the party, but Homie can slink in low. Unfortunately, it’s dark, so Homie can’t see, so when he comes to the end of the crack, he can tell there’s a number of tunnels, but he’s lost the trail from another scent— mushrooms. Rollin, who can somewhat sense Homie’s thoughts, gets, “Smells like mushrooms.” A moment later, “Tastes like mushrooms, too.” He calls the cat back.
When the cat leaves the crack, he’s half the size he used to be. They send Alton into the crack to get more of the mushrooms. He comes back with two types.
They return to the mystic’s tent, who indentifies the mushrooms as pygmywort and bigwigs. The group each eat a pygmywort, shrinking them to half their original size, and enter the crack. They find a twisted maze of passages that go below the town. Rollin picks back up a sign, and they follow a passage to find a group of minor demons blocking their path. Much to Eldeth’s dismay, the group demolish the fiends before her short legs can carrry her into battle.
Rollin and Homie tag off, leading them through the passage, one picking up the scent when the other loses the trail, and eventually, they find themselves in a grand passage suffused with faerzress. The tall passage has huge spirals carved or etched into the walls all over.
We’ll pick back up in the Whorlstone Tunnels at 7:00 (meet at 6 for dinner. I’m considering chili…) on Saturday, 28 January.