JD's Abyss

Where we are now
...at least as far as I recall...

The party has escaped the Drow slave pens of Velkynvelve. Our heroes have been wandering, not entirely aimlessly, towards what they’ve been told is the general direction of Gracklstugh, a town that’s rumored to sometimes host trade caravans from the surface.

underdark_glow.jpeg

It’s a strange and wondrous realm, one that most of you are unfamiliar with. It’s usually, but not always dark, with some areas lit by strange fungi or, occasionally, a thin glowing lavender mist. Brackish but drinkable water can be found, and while you know many of the abundant fungi are edible, it’d be a good idea to find some one who knows which are which before partaking.

You’ve had some issues with Drow pursuers— it seems the chaos wreaked both by your escape— and, strangely enough, by a horde of demons joining in— did not dissuade the Drow from believing that you’d still be good slaves. You’d hoped that you’d have convinced them at least to take a moment to regroup when you ran Mistress Ilvara, the priestess in charge of the place, through on a sword, or that perhaps you’d get lucky and the drow would lose your trail while pursuing one of the other groups of slaves, but thus far your luck has not run that way.

On the plus side, before being ambushed, you’d managed to trade for some supplies. Food and clean water won’t be an issue for a little while, at least. You’re not as well-equipped as you might like, but you can probably fend off the less-determined attackers.

We’ll pick back up our story after a few days of travel.

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The Temple of Miska
or, How Not to get to Sloobludop

After almost a tenday of fairly unremarkable travel, late one night during the third watch, Al and Rael noticed some tremors shake the earth beneath (and more frighteningly, above) them. They investigated, found nothing to explain it, but decided it wasn’t a good idea to stay where they were, so they woke the group and headed out early, off toward what they hoped was Gracklstugh. Working on vague directions and finding few people over the past tenday, though, they weren’t really sure they were on the right path anymore.

That same night, __________ woke in a cold sweat. He’d had a terrible nightmare, an image of being swallowed whole with slimy ichor, oily tentacles, all the disgusting stuff.

Sarith led another group of former prisoners of Velkynvelve to Heyward’s Hideaway, and our heroes stumbled across it that same evening themselves. It’s located at a fairly busy crossroads about a day’s travel from Sloobludop. `

On the way in, Rael and Rollin noticed a wild boar from the surface caged in a cart. After interrogating the stable “boy”, an ancient eloquent half-orc named Grac, they learned that the boar was en route to something called a “zoo” in Sloobludop and that Rollin has an extreme fascination with bacon.

Goram.jpgIn Heyward’s Hideaway, the two groups of prisoners reunited. They also met the caravan that’s hauling the boar, a group of Svirfneblin, led by a caravanner named Goram. Rael and Rollin sat down to a game of dice with the deep gnomes and came out ahead, narrowly avoiding a confrontation with Chut, a deep gnome who was well into his cups and on the losing end of the night’s dice games.

After talking with Sarith and Heyward, our heroes found that Gracklstugh may still be a good option, but since the party isn’t Duergar, they’d have a hard time getting in the front gate. Traders of other races are allowed in the dockyards of Gracklstugh, which means they need a boat. Those can be found at Sloobludop, a city of Kuo-toa on the shores of the Darklake. So they moved to Plan B: They were also going to go to Sloobludop.

Since all three groups were headed to the same place, they set out together, safety in numbers. The previous night’s geological instability struck again, separating the group from Al and Gar, who had scouted ahead when the ceiling collapsed between them. A moment later, the floor below them collapsed down to a passage below, separating most of the group from Chut and his fellow pack gnomes hauling the boar cart.

LynnWoodsCave2.jpgThe boar was extremely agitated by this turn of events, and it broke free from its cage, jumping down to the lower level the characters were on. Rollin was forced to put it down when it charged Goram. I’m sure this had nothing to do with Rollin’s desire for bacon.

They began to explore the path they’d found, stumbling on some dusty caverns that hadn’t been used in ages. These caverns intersected with what was left of a ruined temple in a few places, and matched up with volcanic lava floes in others. The nice warm volcanic areas were home to a salamander and her brood. Fortunately for our group, Seela the salamander was out foraging when they arrived, so they dealt with her separately from her children.

Seela.jpgIn one of the lava floes in Seela’s lair, they found a magic sword that Seela had attempted to destroy because its power of cold was hurtful. Rollin found this to be quite handy when they met Seela.

On the other end of the cavern complex, the party found an ancient temple. Rael recognized it as a temple to a demon, and while he could tell the place was desecrated, he couldn’t make heads or tails of what the sigils seemed to imply. It was, best he could tell, a temple to a demon named Miska the Wolf Spider who was the Prince of Demons. This made no sense, as it’s common knowledge that the Prince of Demons is named Demogorgon, and he’s not big on spiders.

The nameless draconian sorcerer finally piped up. He’d learned from the slave who taught him how to use his talents of some of the ancient ways, including that centuries ago, before Demogorgon made his rise to power, there was indeed a demon named Miska who was called Prince of Demons. Demogorgon defeated Miska, leading us to the situation we have today.

As they exited the complex, they met Seela, who was returning from her hunting. She was incensed when she saw the draconian sorcerer gnawing on the tail of one of her children, but was dispatched by the party in fairly short order.

The party found their way back to a place they recognized, and holed up at Heyward’s with the intent to continue on to Sloobludop via the longer route the next day.

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Sailing on the SS Disappointment

Nightmares and other problems

The party returns to Heyward’s to rest up for the evening.

Heyward_s.jpgThe first problem that evening was a nightmare. Wynn dreamt of everything around her being dead and in various stages of decomposition, and snapped out of it when she looked back at her own bedroll to see her own corpse, swarmed by maggots and worms.

Terrified, she woke much of the group. A discussion on the nature of the nightmares the group had been experiencing terrified Stool possibly even more than Wynn’s dream scared her: __________ put forth the idea that Stool’s rapport spores that allow him to communicate telepathically also might be causing the particularly vivid dreams…and that perhaps a mushroom would make an excellent midnight snack. No particular conclusions were reached, so Wynn prayed for guidance from The Healer before returning to sleep.

The Healer did bring some small insight that perhaps the problem was not someone within the party. Wynn’s vision was neblulous and shadowy, but she could make out something that looked like a two headed beast.

elvish_language_note_by_skullkingj-d8ejq9r.jpgA few hours later, one of the Hideaway’s Duergar guards nudged Rael awake. He handed over a note, written in drow, which read,

“You’re being followed. Meet me at the three standing stones northwest of the inn. Come alone, or you will not find me.” It was signed, “The enemy of your enemy.”

He woke Wynn as he dressed to leave, but got out a minute or two before the rest of the party followed, as it took them a while of passing around the note to find someone who actually could read Drow.

Rael saw the disfigured Jorlan Duskryn, alone in the clearing. Jorlan was, at first, disappointed to see Rael— he’d sent for the drow, not some miserable half-breed. Jorlan quickly decided one slave was as good as any other. Besides, he got a good chuckle over musing whether or not the Duergar guard couldn’t tell the difference between Rael and a full-blooded Drow, or if the guard was playing a joke on him.

The shattered Drow brought bad news: Ilvara Mizzrym was not as dead as the group thought they’d left her. Her junior priestess, Asha Vandree, called upon her power to heal Ilvara. Jorlan mused that it probably pained Asha greatly to do it, as under normal circumstances, would have loved the promotion to the commander of the slave pens, but she had no desire to lead the chaotic situation our heroes left her in Velkynvelve— perhaps in part because they also left her with no slaves. Jorlan noted that the drow force was no more than a day out.

As Jorlan left, the rest of the party arrived. The unnamed dragonborn, who already didn’t trust Rael much to begin with, accused Rael of conspiring with their captors. Rael quickly talked his way out of that by describing the exchange. He and Alphys returned to the inn to pick up the rest of their gear, and as they left the inn, Rael said, loud enough to overhear, “Off to Neverlight Grove!”

The group waited at the standing stones to see what would happen. The plan was simple: If Ilvara showed up with just her elites, the party figured they could take her. If she brought a full raiding party, they continued to hide at the stones. It was a good vantage point— Heyward’s is well-lit with torchstalks, so it’s easy to see what happens there from the darkness a few hundred yards distant.

A single drow scout entered. As he left, Rael and Rollin moved to ambush the scout, but before the struck, Rollin had an insight: If the scout doesn’t return, the raiding party would know something happened to him and would move in force. dwarduer.gif They returned to the party, where they were surprised by the Duergar guard, who explained that he was pretty sure Rael was trying to redirect pursuit when he spoke of Neverlight Grove— so he told the Drow scout exactly what he’d heard. He told the group he did this for two reasons— one, it’s not often he gets to tweak the Drow twice in one day. Secondly, he gets paid very well to guard Heyward’s, and he very much didn’t want a Drow raiding party moving in and a fight breaking out.

The party decided to move out to Sloobludop to try to arrange for a boat to Gracklstugh, the duergar city that they know trades with the world above.

The Day’s Catch

On the way to Sloobludop. another earthquake shook the region.

kuotoa.jpg Not far from the Kuo-toa city of Sloobludop, the party was ambushed by a group of Kuo-toa who were doing their best to capture the party. At various times, many members of the party had been grabbed (and in Rael’s case, even knocked unconscious) with attempts made to haul them away, but only one got far: a Kuo-toa footman (finman?) grabbed Shuushar the Awakened and bolted away with him. Shuushar, ever the pacifist, made no move to resist.

After the party dispatched the rest of the Kuo-toa, they rounded the corner to try to catch the one who carried off Shuushar to find a Kuo-toa archpriest has dispatched the kidnapper and saved the addled Kuo-toa.

The archpriest asked the party to help with a problem: His daughter, Bloppblippodd, is having a bit of teenage rebellion. Unfortunately, that rebellion involves swaying half the city over to a new religion, following Leemooggoogoon, the Deep Father. This has caused a considerable increase in her power.

Ploop offered to help the party— which was convenient, because the party needed a boat. A deal was made— eventually making a deal for two boats, though only one was available right now, because the party wished to go to Gracklstugh where Sarith Kzekarit and Stool want to go to Neverlight Grove— even knowing that’s where Mistress Ilvara was looking for them.

Ploopploopeen explained her plan. The party was to be used as bait. He would bring the party, loosely bound, to the temple, and offer them as sacrifices to the Deep Father by way of reconciliation. The party was then to break free and help subdue his daughter.

The Temple of the Deep Father

Ploop brought the group to the city of Sloobludop, a town of huts and hovels bordering the Darklake. From their vantage point, they could see a large, hastily cleared area with a large wooden building, built extremely stout to handle the decoration placed atop the building: Two extremely large dead octopi, one painted blue, the other painted red, shorn of most of their tentacles, strapped together. This rotting tribute stood at least another forty feet tall over the stout structure. Wynn saw the effigy and immediately was taken back to the vision that The Healer had brought to her.

Blackleopard.jpgIn a hut near the temple was the ‘zoo’ the Kuo-toa had created. The one animal in the cages was a black panther. Rollin attempted to amend the deal with the Archpriest— he wished to save the panther, as well. Ploopploopeen was non-committal. He explained that the panther was to be a sacrifice to the Deep Father. Should the plan go well, there would no longer be a need for sacrifices to the Deep Father, and they would have no need for the panther.

The party suggested confronting Blopp the following day after some resting and recovery. Ploop agreed, and met them the next morning. After a disgusting offering to the Sea Mother, she loosely bound them together and led them to the temple of the Deep Father.

The temple’s back wall was open, overlooking the Darklake. The taller members of the group could see up on the dais and noticed a halfling sacrifice bound on the altar.

“The time has come,” he stated, “for us to acknowledge your divine vision and welcome it. I have brought these as offerings,” the Archpriest said to his daughter.

“You are wise, father,” the new Archpriestess replied. “I accept… OW!”

The nameless draconian sorcerer tired of the chatter, and silently cast a Shatter spell on the archpriestess as he leaned against the door of the temple. A chaotic melee ensued, during which somebody noticed that the halfling on the altar was Alton. “Did you guys find Gar? I lost him”, he asked as the battle waged around him.

As the battle raged, the waters of the Darklake began to bubble and boil over a hundred yards offshore.

Alphys’s usual predilection is to charge the alpha, and was true to form here, as well. A smite placed a holy fear in the archpriestess, who bolted away from the battle, blasted off the back wall of the temple by a searing bolt from Wynn.

Bloppblippodd had fallen, but the terrible happenings offshore did not stop.

The foamy surface of the water offshore split as an oily tentacle burst forth, followed by another. Two monstrous heads broke the surface, both resembling hideous, angry baboons. The monster’s red eyes burned with anger and madness. Demogorgon rose from the Darklake, standing thirty feet or so over the petty creatures around. He threw back both his heads and roared, shaking the cavern.

IMG_3509.jpgThe roar caused everyone who heard it to descend a bit into madness. Some of the party shook it off with no ill effect, including the two Dragonborn. Many did not, and fell to their knees, gibbering and chanting, “Leemooggoogoon! Leemooggoogoon!”

Alphys and Goldie scooped up helpless party members, and the panther dragged Rollin behind them. There was one boat at the docks large enough for the group, and it was directly between Demogorgon and the temple to the Deep Father that he strode toward.

Demogorgon swatted aside jumping Ixitxachitl, small boats, and swimming Kuo-toa as if they were nothing, bodies and debris sailed through the air and bounced off or crashed through the kuo-toa hovels. Our heroes scampered aboard the boat. Sarith took the helm and pointed the two strong dragonkin to the oars. Alphys got the boat moving slowly, but the nameless one had never seen an oar before and was merely slapping the water. After extremely brief instruction on how to make an oar work, the boat began to move away from the docks. Demogorgon’s temple lashed out and smashed a good half of the quarterdeck, but the boat survived and the party escaped as the demon lord strode ashore, laying waste to the temple and the town around it.

As the boat scoots away, one by one the babbling members of the group snap out of it. They’ve survived their brush with the Prince of Demons. They also come to the realization that Demogorgon is now loose in the Underdark.

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Navigating the underground river

Alphys and __________ briskly rowed the small skiff as far and as fast away as they could. Navigating the Darklake was pretty irrelevant: when the Prince of Demons shows up in town, you really don’t care where you’re headed.

When one intends to hire passage on a boat, usually one hopes to get a ship’s captain who knows how to navigate to where you want to go. When you instead sprint for any boat that’s handy to escape a rampaging demigod, you reduce your expectations. This meant our heroes had a boat, but no idea how to get where they ultimately wanted to go. The good news is that in the immediate term “anywhere but here” was fine.

UndergroundRiverFinished.jpgAs we left our previous adventure, much of the party had been struck mad by viewing Demogorgon. Fortunately, most of them recovered after a few minutes. Alton, however, ranted and chanted “Leemogoogooon!” over and over for three solid hours.

hobgoblin.jpgThe first problem was noticed well before it could be seen. Wynn was the first to hear a roaring ahead. The Dragonkin found it easy enough to paddle against the current while they took stock of their surroundings. As they explored the subterranean river, they found that it was arranged much like a canal, with a well-worn but quite dusty towpath off to one side. Continuing downstream, they encountered an ancient Duergar lock system.

While none of the group were familiar with shipping locks, they sorted out how to make it work, and continued downstream. A small group of hobgoblins, camped out on the path, were not expecting a naval assault on their campground. This mistake was deadly for most of them, but one hobgoblin threw down his sword and was spared. [editor’s note: If someone remembers why he was spared, please remind me.]

309787_Skriss.jpgIn a section of the canal mostly covered by a patch of faerzress, the group finally met someone friendly in the Underdark. Skriss, a Troglodyte who claimed to be a member of a group known as the Society of Brilliance, was studying faerzress. It seemed to him that faerzress was not behaving as he expected. He tricked Wynn into casting a spell, which had entirely unexpected behavior. He also gave the party directions to Gracklstugh, which, fortunately, didn’t require much more than the non-existent underground sea navigation experience they already had.

waterweird.pngAnother lock lay in their path, which was quickly sorted, then they broke out into a massive underground sea. A brief encounter with a water weird was all that lay between them and their goal. Soon, they saw an orange glow across the water, and as they approached, they began to smell acrid smoke.

We’ll pick up as the party approaches Gracklstugh, the City of Blades.

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One day in Gracklstugh

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.

Gracklstugh.jpgOur 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.

errde.pngA 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.

“…And lunch.”

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.

modron.gifThe 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.”

droki_2sm_by_bryansyme-d992jnn.jpgStepping 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.

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Beginning exploration of the Whorlstone Tunnels

Homie and Rollin had tracked Drokito a great cavern, and could tell he’d headed off toward the east. The cavern was filled with faerzress swirling in the same sorts of swirly patterns as the swirl marks on the walls and ceiling and floors of the caverns.

Unfortunately, the party lost Droki’s track; he’s been here many times, and at an intersection of caverns, the best Rollin could tell was that Droki had been every direction, but he had no idea how long ago each was.

The faerzress seemed to change the way sounds carried through the caverns. While they couldn’t hear water dripping along the cavern walls near them, they could hear a derro laughing and then humming out-of-tune to the south. Rael scouted the other two directions before the group headed south. To the north he found a grove of pygmywort and bigwig mushrooms, and to the east the tunnel sloped down to an underground river that moved swiftly through the cavern.

buppido.jpgTo the south, they found a familiar face, but not the one they were expecting. Buppido, a derro they’d been imprisoned with back in Velkynvelve, sat with his back to them. In his cavern, remains of various humanoids had been stacked in swirly patterns like the faerzress and the swirls on the walls. Goldenrod stepped out to get a better look and that’s when Buppido recognized him.

“Oh, there you are!”, he cried. “I didn’t expect you to find me here, with my shrine nearly finished! And power! My faithful are finally honoring me… are you? Yes! Yes, I sense that you are ready to receive my truth into your hearts!”

Buppido reached for the heavens (or at least the ceiling of the cavern) and six skeletons rose from the piles of charnel on the floor. The skeletons fought on even as Buppido fell, but eventually, they, too were vanquished, at which point, a ghost of a deep gnome rose from the piles on the floor. He explained that his name was Pelek, and he was murdered here by Buppido. Buppido chopped him up and scattered his parts throughout the cavern, but he could rest if some piece of him was buried in his family’s tomb in Blingdenstone. He told the group that his hand could be recognized by an obsidian ring.

The adventurers searched the disgusting cavern high and low, but found no hand with a ring on it. They continued on, hoping to find it elsewhere.

thrashingmyconid.jpgAs they entered a nearby cavern, Stool piped up when they saw some of his people… dancing. "Myconids don’t dance, " Stool noted. With the myconids was one not dancing, a friend of Stool’s named Rumpadump. Rumpadump is as introverted as Stool is outgoing, and Rumpadump didn’t know why the myconids were dancing, either.

After a short parlay Sarith started moving toward the myconids, apparently against his will due to the look of horror on his face. Voosbur, the leader of the mushroom people, offered the Lady’s Gift. Wynn said, “Oh, no need. We already have the Lady’s Gift,” which piqued Voosbur’s interest. “Well, then, follow me!”, he said. He, his entourage, and a still-terrified Sarith all walked over to a grove of mushrooms in the southeast corner of the cavern… and disappeared without a trace.

None of the group actually liked Sarith, so the trade for Rumpadump was fine by them. Rumpadump was terrified, and wants only to get back to Neverlight Grove.

A dense fungi forest blocked their way, but the group continued through it. As they came to a crossing of cavern passages, they were ambushed by swarms of insects coming out of the forest. The dragonborn used breath weapons and fire on each other to char the centipedes and spiders without damaging each other, but more care was needed to skewer the bugs that jumped on the rest of the team. This encounter took a lot out of the group, and they returned to the cavern where they’d seen the dancing myconids to discuss whether or not to return to Gracklstugh to rest or to rest here… a decision forced when they noticed Goldie was already snoring and none of them were large enough to move him.

Unfortunately, sleeping in the faerzress, Rael was shaken by terrible dreams. He awoke screaming— and not just for a moment. Wynn recognized it as a madness similar to what many of the group had inflicted on them by viewing the Prince of Demons a few days ago, and called upon the power of Mishakal to heal Rael’s mind.

After a few turns that took them back to places they’d already been, eventually the group’s explorations took them to a huge cavern filled with a mesa. Cacophonous noise descended from the top of the hill, and the faerzress moved and swayed as if by the sounds.

Rael climbed to the top of the mesa to scout around and found nobody there, but realized he was hearing things from all over the city above them. As he concentrated to listen further, he managed to hone in on Captain Blackskull talking to a subordinate. The subordinate brought news of an adventuring party they were bringing to the jail, and Blackskull noted she had plans for this group. She’d send them after a courier named Droki to capture him, and from Droki, she intended to find out the plans of the cultists in the Whorlstone tunnels. Realizing that the conversation was about their own group, Rael returned to tell the group what they’d found.

Wynn decided to scale the mountain to see what she could hear, and managed to hone in on a group of cultists describing some of the areas in the Whorlstone Tunnels.

dwarfzombie.jpgMore exploration brought the group to a door. There hadn’t been any doors in the caverns so this one was curious. Opening the door gave them the explanation: the stench beyond it was horrendous. Inside, there was a garbage pit filled with the remains of various beings. A derro stood watch on a cliff face, where duergar and grimlock zombies milled about the pit. Rael and Wynn noticed a disembodied undead hand moving about the pit wearing an obsidian ring.

In the ensuing fight, Eldeth was in her element. A soaring leap from the cliff landed her in the midst of three of the zombies, her mattock systematically cleaving parts from them as they shambled around her. One crushing blow from her mattock shot the rib cage clean out from between a zombie’s hips and shoulders, the head crashing down on top of the zombie’s legs before it toppled to the ground.

Meanwhile, Rael had stuck the disembodied hand to the side of the cavern with a well-placed arrow shot, and Wynn retrieved it before it got away, to find the hand lifeless. Wanting to keep the obsidian ring safe, she put it on. The ring crumbled to dust, and her skin turned black and as hard as stone.

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Blackskull's malcontents and more zombies
Or, that time we almost didn't get out of the dump.

A bright flash attracted everyone’s attention, and they spun to look just in time to see the onyx ring crumble around Wynn’s finger, and her skin turned jet black. She don’t get much time to think about her new life looking like a Drow. The faerzress makes the acoustics so everyone heard hear the door to this cavern open.
“Blarch!”, a voice cried out in Undercommon. “What is that foul smell?”
“No wonder this is the first door we’ve seen,” another voice said. “It’s to keep the smell out of the rest of the caverns.”
“HUSH,” a woman’s voice said. “Do you want Captain Blackskull’s mistake to know we’re coming?”

As the cavern door creaked shut again, Wynn felt the disembodied humanoids parts in the cavern start to writhe.

The good news was our heroes knew they were being pursued and their hunters were coming. The bad news was the bad guys were invisible. Rael popped off a Faerie Fire spell which outlined some of their invisible attackers.

Eldeth charged in, surrounding herself with attackers. Grinah, the leader of the Stone Guard squad, fought a magical duel with __________.

As the party fought, the disembodied body parts around them began to form into patchwork zombies, threatening hero and villain alike.

staffofunnamedsorcerer.jpgGoldie found himself surrounded by Duergar and zombies and decided that he’d take the hit for the team, and made himself ground zero for a shatter spell, figuring it would hurt them more than it hurt him. He got some surprising extra bang for the buck as the faerzress in the room started to swirl more violently and shocks of pure magical energy, looking like lightning, came shooting in from all corners of the cavern. Some managed to dodge the energy blasts, but Rael, Alton , Wynn, and Alphys felt the energy course through them on the way to Goldenrod’s jail cell bar.

As the shatter spell crashed around him, the unnamed sorcerer noticed that the faerzress had imprinted faint purple whorls all over his iron bar.

There was little time to contemplate this development, as the zombies kept forming out of the disgusting ooze underfoot. Rael, on a ten foot ledge, was reasonably safe, raining flasks of burning oil down on the zombies that had a hard time climbing. Eldeth was in her element— when some people are surrounded by zombies, it’s a problem, but for her, it’s a target-rich environment. Rollin and Homie practiced their teamwork to double-team zombies and bring them down.

Heavily damaged, Goldenrod made a break for the ledge. Battered and bruised, he scrambled to relative safety. Rael offered him the healing potion in his pack, which Goldie grabbed, but never had a chance to drink as the zombies started figuring out how to climb the ledges.

Zombie_Rotter.pngOur heroes figured out the problem: Residual magic from the spells they were casting was interacting with the faerzress in the room to animate the zombies. Goldenrod eventually regretted testing this theory, as one of the zombies he caused by shooting spells at them eventually scaled the cliff and knocked him unconscious.

Rael dove and tumbled through the zombies on the ledge to reach Goldie and force-fed him the potion that he’d fished out of Rael’s pack, but never got a chance to drink.

Eldeth, Homie, and Rollin were systematically dismantling the zombies on the floor. Since none of the three of them primarily use magic, they were disassembling zombies without reanimating others. None of them seemed to be able to miss the slow, shambling creatures Untitled.jpeg (except Rollin, who raised eyebrows when one of the foul undead managed to avoid impaling itself on his short sword), so it was only a matter of time.

Once they quit creating new zombies, the group fairly quickly dispatched the remaining ones. A few zombies didn’t seem to want to finally (re)die, but even those eventually fell to Eldeth’s mattock or Rael’s short swords.

rumpadump.jpgAfter the combat, Rumpadump released some telepathy spores and everyone heard his voice in their head for the first time since they met him. “That’s really weird. The Stone Guard simply don’t disobey orders. If everyone in Gracklstugh just did whatever they wanted, the whole town would collapse. Dancing myconids, treasonous duergar… it’s like the whole Underdark’s gone just a little but nuts.

“Or perhaps it’s just me.” He went quiet once again.

Goldie wanted to collapse in place to recover, but nobody else wanted to hang out in the smelly cavern that kept spontaneously generating zombies. Rael had the idea of returning to the raucous cavern to use the faerzress acoustics to see if someone was going to ambush them while they rested there. It appeared to be safe, so they stopped for the night.

spectator.pngAfter they recuperated, the gang pressed onward, finding a patch of yellow mold covering a humanoid corpse. The noticed a blue and yellow shiny piece of metal that the mold had failed to cover. Burning away the mold left them with a magic shield, a little singed but no worse for the wear.

Past the unlucky elf’s remains, they followed the tunnel around to a pair of double doors, blocked from the far side. Kicking down the door alerted the bad guys in that chamber, but faerzress-induced wild magic made things go wrong for the crazed derro in the cavern. His friend the spectator hid on a ledge over the entrance to the cavern, but the ambush didn’t go well for the potty-mouthed derro and his extremely eager abberation.

The cavern had two interesting features atop a huge mesa. One is black metal obelisk with a few chips and furrows that Rael determined was heavily magical and he’s pretty sure any of the spellcasters could activate. The other was a red dragon’s egg. Goldie reflexively cast shatter at it, putting an extremely small crack in the dragon egg, but then he thought better of destroying a being that had not yet done any evil.

We broke at this point to determine the dilemma of the obelisk and the dragon egg.

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Two Heads are Better than One

There were two interesting items in the room where we picked back up: a dragon egg, and a tall metal obelisk, made of a dark metal. The obelisk was missing a few pieces, but was otherwise mostly intact… was obviously magical. After some inspection, Goldie decided to push some magical energy into the obelisk. He instantly vanished, having been teleported across the room.

More experimentation yielded little in terms of results— another spell caused another teleport to a location close to the first spot.

The group decided to hide the dragon egg and continue on.

They arrived in a room with a heavy, unpleasant musk in the air, a scent coming from iron cages on both sides of the chamber. They saw a pair of derro standing by a cauldron. A spiral path, marked off by stone pylons, swirled into the center of the room.

They got the jump on the derro. One moved behind a pylon to attack, the other went to the cages and started freeing cave bears from the cagescave_bear.png. After freeing the first two, he didn’t need to free the third, who was bigger and stronger than the other two— that bear smashed his own way out of the cage.

The group charged in and made short work of the derro. The two unpainted smaller cave bears were tougher, but it took a while to bring down the big one. After some powerful swings of Eldeth‘s mattock brought the big bear down, they found out why that one was so much nastier: It wore a collar with the same properties of a belt of stone giant strength. It wouldn’t fit on a humanoid, but it magically resized itself to fit Homie just fine.

Our heroes continued. Their travels brought them to a narrow crack in the tunnels, and they each ate a pygmywort mushroom to shrink down to a size where they could fit. The crack brought them to a room where a Derro cultist named Narrak was completing a heinous ritual. They also heard a familiar voice saying quickly, “Time! Time! No time to wait! Must deliver, people to see, places to go!” Droki was not happy about having to wait until the end of the ritual to deliver his parcel.

A moment later, Narrak’s chant ends with, " Demogorgon… Demogorgon… DEMOGORGON!" and a statue in the center of the magic circle began to sprout a lump out of its neck. Narrak looked at his handiwork, dejected. Our heroes thought that the problem was that Narrak can’t summon Demogorgon to this world because he’s already here. [Editor’s Note: That’s not actually why, and I don’t think I remembered to clear that up when the topic came up in the game session itself. I’ll clear that up below.]

grula-munga.jpgNarrak’s bodyguards included a Death Dog and an Ettin named Grula-Munga. It appears he’s got a thing for creatures with two heads— which explains his fascination over Demogorgon.

Droki tried to hide using a spell of darkness, but Rael had other ideas. He didn’t need to see Droki, he only needed to know approximately where Droki was— and he knew that Droki was wearing boots of speed and a displacer hat. Detect Magic let him determine where those items were— sort of. The displacer hat’s magic displaced the detection of… was it the hat? Or was the magic displacing where Rael thought the boots were? Rael guessed correctly, and Droki tried to find another means of escape. Unfortunately for him, that just meant he had to deal with Alphys.

Alphys tied up the wily derro as Goldenrod threw derro cultists about the room. It took a while to mop up the remaining spell-casting cultists, but the group was victorious.

Goldenrod and Wynn went over Narrak’s possessions and his office. They found a book that they determined had a magical ritual designed to put a second head on a being with only one. [Editor’s note: Here’s where I forgot to mention: That ritual appears to be what you saw here. Demogorgon wasn’t to be summoned, but it was his power that Narrak was asking for to complete the ritual. Since Demogorgon is busy ransacking the Underdark, though, the ritual did not work.]

Droki’s satchel had an interesting delivery: A lump of metal that was very similar to the obelisk from earlier in the day. They determined that the object was a piece of something called Fardelver’s Gate. He also carried a letter to Narrak from someone named Xinaya. Xinaya’s note says she also has a component of Fardelver’s Gate, and what’s more, she also claimed to have captured a slave with interesting anti-magic properties. Her note said she would be in Neverlight Grove for the time being.

Along the back wall of the cavern, they find a broken statue similar to the one on the pedestal in the center of the magic circle. Both statues are of crouching stone giants, and they have names on them. The one in the center of the room reads, “Dorhun”, the broken one reads “Rihuud”.

Droki carried a list of names that look vaguely to be in the Giant tongue, those names include Dorhun and Rihuud. He also carried a scroll tube with small pouches in it, the pouches are labeled with the other four names and include huge toenail clippings.

We left with the group trying to decide what to do next— deliver Droki to Captain Blackskull, or finish exploring the Whorlstone Tunnels.

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Making sense of the City of Blades

From the journal of Alton Crowfletching:

I don’t date these journal entries because I’ve lost track of time down here, and they don’t keep the same calendar in the Underdark, so I really don’t know what day it is. By my estimate, we’re probably in the month of Myrtul, when the storms clear and spring truly begins in earnest. More likely that’s just wishful thinking. I haven’t seen the sun in over a month, I haven’t seen a real flower in even longer, and let’s face it, a zurkhwood simply doesn’t have the same majesty as a willow oak. Though I suspect our Myconid friends might disagree on that point.

Today, for the first time in a long while, I feel optimistic that I may once again see those sights. The sun on my face will go far toward restoring the sanity I feel I’ve lost here in the caverns under the world. My heart aches to see my homeland again— and even more to see the fair Kiera— but that will be even further in coming. One thing at a time.

Capturing Droki left the group with a question: How to get out of the Whorlstone Tunnels? Entering by the route they had involved eating a pygmywort mushroom, and while he was easy enough to manhandle by either of the Dragonborn at their regular size, that would have been a problem if they were shrunk, and there was no way to forcibly shrink Droki. The other usual route into the tunnels was through the Derro ghetto, where thousands of crazed xenophobic Derro lay between them and civilization.

It was Droki who suggested the solution to the problem. Even captured, Droki’s priority was to get the note he was couriering to its recipient, a Lorthio Bukbukken. Droki spilled the beans about Lorthio’s secret route from the tunnels to the city above, figuring they’d deliver the note along the way.

The group reached the door to Lorthio’s lair and actually knocked. Their response came back in Dwarvish. Normally the smooth-talking Rael takes point on any conversation, but his dwarvish is terrible, which left Eldeth to handle the talking. “We’re couriers,” she called through the door. “We’ve got a delivery for Lorthio.”

“What happened to Droki?” came the reply. Eldeth, clearly not in her element, responded “Uh… He asked us to handle it.” The bored Duergar on the other side of the door bought it.

And he first thing that Duergar saw was Alphys, standing there, clasping her hand over the mouth of Droki, the hog-tied derro courier.

Rael jumped in, hoping the Duergar also spoke Common, and managed to defuse the situation by producing the letter. The Duergar stepped away, and returned with Lorthio.

Lorthio was unhappy at the turn of events— the note was from someone named Gorglak, who apparently was declining to continue his purchase of Lorthio’s venomous wares. He just wanted an elvish blade to complete their transactions.

Rael didn’t manage to extract payment as he would have liked, but he was handed the blade— a fine and elegant dagger by elven standards, but not to the usual preferences of the dour gray dwarves. He then asked, “I hate to bother you further, but we understand you have an exit from the Whorlstone Tunnels here. Might we use it?”

Lorthio did some quick math in his head. Many of his thieves were out on jobs, and their group didn’t have the numbers he’d like for a fight. He made a mental note to triple the guard on the trapdoor from the Docks district and allowed the characters to pass, with a warning: “If any of us see you anywhere near the trapdoor, it will be the last thing you see.”

chlen.jpgThe Gray Ghosts’ secret trapdoor into the Whorlstone Tunnels may well be the worst kept secret in Gracklstugh, as there was somebody waiting for them on the other side.The copper-haired surface elf introduced herself as Chlen. “I bring greetings from the Wyrmsmith of the City of Blades. He has decided to grant you an audience.”

The group dithered. They finally had the wily Droki. Droki was the key to getting out of the city. They wanted to bring him to Captain Blackskull immediately. Chlen asked, “What part of ‘Dragon’ did you not understand? Are you really going to keep the dragon waiting?”

Put this way, the group decided Captain Blackskull could wait a bit longer.

On their way from the Darklake Docks to Themberchaud’s cavern, they found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. A two-headed stone giant crashed through a building toward them. “Don’t kill the giant!” screamed Chlen. “The Stonespeaker and the Deepking are already on rocky terms, and a stone giant dying in the city by any circumstances would cause chaos!”

The group wore down the crazed two-headed giant to where the giant could not resist Rael’s spell of sleep. Lacking any way to secure a stone giant, though, they ran away quickly.

Dragons_Themberchaud.pngEntering Themberchaud’s lair, the great wyrm was facing away from them. He cracked a joke with Chlen. She had taken a knee, and signaled for the rest of the group to do the same. Pride kept Rollin and the two dragonkin from showing any sort of fealty to a red dragon. Without turning to view the situation, the dragon spoke a few words of extremely powerful magic. The floor began to shake violently— but none of the group who knelt were affected at all. Alphys and Rollin were thrown to the floor, but Goldie managed to keep his feet a bit longer. He was pummeled by rocks shaken from the ceiling even more and eventually fell to the ground. Alphys and Rollin took the hint, and rose to a knee, but Goldenrod stood again. “You’re no god,” he spoke in Draconic.

Themberchaud responded, "I am in here. If you wish to rise, I suppose that can be arranged. " A few more words of magic levitated Goldenrod high above the party, where he found himself ensconced in a silence spell. “Thank you, Chlen. You may leave us.”

Themberchaud explained to the party his dilemma. As Wyrmsmith of Gracklstugh, he kept the forges of the city burning with magical dragonfire. He described the Keepers of the Flame, an order of clerics who, in theory, were to assist him and who brought the wyrm treasure as gratuity for his service. Then he waved around him. “But look at this,” he said. “Is this a suitable treasure hoard for a dragon of my stature?” As he scooped his great claw through a pile of magical items, one out-of-place object caught the eye. It was another chunk of Fardelver’s gate. “Why is it that it often seems like they control me rather than I control them?”

“Find out what the Keepers of the Flame are up to. I recognize none work for free, and there shall be payment.”

Rael, obsequious as possible, took that opening to suggest that the group would do it in exchange for the piece of the Gate. “Do you know what it is?” the dragon asked. He turned to Eldeth, and said, “You. Do you know the history of your people?”

“This is a piece of the Gate of Fardelver,” the dragon hissed. “Millenia ago, the Delzoun dwarves of Gauntlgrym— your people— had mines that dug this deep into the Underdark. They created the Gate to teleport back and forth between here and their city under the mountain. They didn’t create it themselves, of course. Your people have never had much ability with magic. I of course mean no offense by that,” the dragon stated, not even attempting to conceal the condescension in his voice. "They had help from the Modrons.

“Thousands of years ago, during the war between the Delzoun and the Illithid, the Modrons in the underdark were all slaughtered by the mind-flayers to keep the dwarves from using their transportation system. The ones trapped here were enslaved by the mind flayers, and they are as you see them today— gray dwarves, touched by the evil of their slavers even after throwing off those shackles.”

“You will earn your piece of the gate if you fulfill your end of the bargain— for all the good it will do you. Without a Modron to operate the gate, it will be useless.”

The bargain struck, our heroes took their leave of the dragon. As Themberchaud released Goldenrod, the dragonkin called upon his sorcery to drift safely to the ground rather than plummet. “Finally,” the wyrm said, “You show some of the wisdom one of your heritage ought to have.”

As the group left, they turned to talk to one of the Keepers posted outside the cavern. The guard they could see turned to an invisible one and nodded. Then the guard said, “I can tell you nothing, but Malloc will find you.”

The next stop was the center of town. Captain Blackskull was quite happy that her plan had worked, and held up her end of the bargain, producing papers that will allow the group both free passage through the city and also out of the city. “Might I ask a favor before you leave? I am finding that some of my people are taking matters into their own hands. Sometimes mutinous hands.”

“We’ve noticed,” came the reply from the ravenous dragonborn. “I ate a few of them”.

Blackskull continued, “I would like you to see if you can find proof of the Captain of the Gate’s treachery. His name is Gorglak, and you can find him near the gates of the city.”

At this point, the group produced the letter from Gorglak, and a disappointed Rael was convinced to show the elven dagger. “So he’s working with the Gray Ghosts. I wonder what he needs the poison for?”

millenium_falcon.jpgThe group arranged to meet with Blackskull’s lieutenant, a fellow named Emvee at the Shattered Spire Millenium Falcon the next morning to lead him to the Gray Ghosts. Blackskull offered a quick apology. “I had been considering allowing you a pick from our storerooms if you were to help us with this, but I fear that if Gorglak has been buying poison from Lorthio, I’ll have to take the antivenins out of the offer.”

True to the word of the Keeper Guard at Themberchaud’s cavern, Malloc did find the group. (It turns out that a group of surfacers including two seven foot tall gold dragonkin stick out like a sore thumb in Gracklstugh.) He was waiting for them outside city hall. The group suggested that they take the conversation back to the inn to talk privately.

Once safely ensconced in the Shattered Spire Millenium Falcon, Malloc looked accusingly at the group. “So perhaps the Gray Ghosts aren’t lying, and they didn’t take it. What did you do with it?” The group protested they had no idea what “it” Malloc was talking about. “The egg.” He was looking straight at Goldenrod, who managed to carry off a bluff when he said he knew nothing about an egg. The group questioned Malloc about the egg, and Malloc had no problems letting them know that it was a red dragon egg and was not Themberchaud’s. He then apologized and took his leave.

As tired as the group was, they knew something was amiss. Rollin and Rael tailed Malloc back to the offices of the Keepers of the Flames, a building just outside the dragon’s cavern. Goldie skirted town to the cavern from the other side of the building. Creeping up past stalactites and stalagmites, Goldenrod quietly disappeared in a puff of mist and reappeared on the other side of the guards, who were none the wiser. He then greeted Themberchaud. He asked if they could talk privately, and Themberchaud cast a spell of silence across the entry to the cavern. After relaying what the group had learned, Goldenrod offered his analysis: “If they have a dragon egg that does not belong to the dragon they claim to serve, it likely means that they intend to replace the dragon.” An enraged Themberchaud spoke. “Begone.”

Goldenrod begged for help. “I’m not sure how to get past your guards.”

Themberchaud snorted, “That does not sound like my problem. I do not like you.” He paused. “But I do pay my debts,” he continued, and he flung the chunk of Fardelver’s Gate at the dragonkin.

At the office, Rael and Rollin climed in through a window, and in the process, Rael made some scraping noises as he pushed off the wall. Fortunately, before beginning pursuit, Rael had placed some invisibility magic on himself. Rollin, on the other hand, had used his magic of the woodlands to pass without trace so that he was extremely tough to find. Someone heard Rael’s miscue. Rollin quickly slinked behind the door, and Rael leapt atop a short cabinet, still invisible. The cabinet rocked a bit beneath him but steadied itself before a Keeper of the Flame looked in. The Keeper called out something to his group that neither Rael nor Rollin understood because they don’t speak Dwarvish. He turned back to the hallway, where he had another argument, then he turned back into the room, went to the window, looked around, yelled back to his group again, and left the room without finding the hiding heroes.

Finally they heard Malloc’s voice, but they couldn’t tell what he was saying. Malloc then led a dozen of his people out the door, back toward the inn. Rael and Rollin turned to follow.

Not long after, Goldenrod used the same misty step magic to reappear outside the cavern. The guards noticed him, and gave chase. They called sacred flame from above onto Goldie, but their short legs could not keep up. They did see some of the main group, though, and using their psionic magic to send a message, two of the main group peeled off to pursue Goldenrod.

Moving fastest, Goldie barely made it to the inn first. He roared as he ran through the doors, waking everybody, and then turned to face the door, ready to shatter the next thing that came in.

The pursers turned invisible before the burst through the door, but Rael was close enough behind when he saw it. A short incantation later, and three of the invisible duergar were engulfed with faerie fire.

The door smashed open and the first couple Keepers, including Malloc, got through. Malloc, seeing his enemy’s spellcaster standing in the open, attempted to dominate Goldie, but the spell was harmlessly sucked up by the dweomer infused in Goldenrod’s jail cell bar.

Eldeth and Homie leapt into the fight with the keepers, and the back of the group was sandwiched in by Rollin and Rael, who had tailed them from their office. A fireball from Goldenrod softened that group up, but also convinced them to swarm the sorcerer.They conjured fiery maces out of the air, and those spiritual weapons swung at him along with their own dwarven war picks.

Meanwhile, Wynn moved herself into position and Alphys took on Malloc. She called on upon the power of her patron to force Malloc into a compelled duel. “Very well,” Malloc said, and this time he cast his dominate person spell on Alphys instead. Malloc directed her to “Kill the spellcaster,” expecting her to finish off Goldenrod.

Wynn had reached the injured dragonkin, and Alphys laid into her, a divine smite from the heavens with her frost-brand sword— Wynn was also a spellcaster. It wasn’t enough to bring her down, and Wynn brought about her own magic to heal herself and the sorcerer at the same time. She also brought up her own spiritual weapon, a gleaming morning star, that smashed into Malloc.

When Malloc fell, Alphys returned to control of her own mind, horrified at what she had done to Wynn. Eldeth and Homie took the last remaining Keeper prisoner when he threw down his weapons rather than stand back up to fight.

Our heroes secured Remder the Keeper of the Flame and finally turned in for the evening, ready to meet Emvee in the morning.

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