Anne campaigne by St. Matty. Returne to the Maine Page.
|Yurk||Half-Orc||Fighter Ranger||Mark (on hiatus)|
|Alastair||Eladrin||Wizard / Sword-Mage||Ciaran|
|Orsik||Dwarf||Cleric Paladin of Pelor||Sam|
- Episode 1: The Burning Plague
- Episode 2: Two Temples
- Episode 3: The Maze of Spiders
- Episode 4: Royal Charge
- Episode 5: Back Underground
- Episode 6: Mushrooms in the Dark
- Episode 7: The Feydark
- Episode 8: Angel Flight
- Episode 9: Sunken Arobel
- Episode 10: The Temple of Iwan-Emuan
- Episode 11: The Lost Shrine
- Episode 12: Nets in the Night
Thee Storie Thuſ Far
Episode 1: The Burning Plague
As they entered the mountain village of Duvik's Pass even the most insular of them noticed a certain hunted feeling from the townsfolk. They saw very few elderly folk and almost no young men as they made their way to the Inn. After some enquiries they were directed to the mayor's oﬀice in the Town Hall. There they heard from several prominent community members of a plague that had been hurting their town; ﬁrst it had aﬀected some miners in the nearby silver lode – the village's recent primary source of income – but then it had spread to the herds, then the crops, and eventually the townsfolk themselves. The elders had determined that the well had been tainted. The plague itself, they heard, at ﬁrst caused fevers and rashes, then boils and sores, weakness, and in extreme cases or when aﬄicting the elderly or young, even death. Then, about two weeks ago, rumour reached the town of kobolds in the mine. Many of the town's young men had headed oﬀ to deal with the menace, and hopefully get some quality mining done afterwards. Having not heard anything for a fortnight, the villagers assumed the kobolds had been sorted without trouble and mining was under way, but some people – among them the wife of the mine's foreman – privately held concerns. After the council, she quietly requested that the four heroes investigate the mine, just to make sure everything was alright.
The next morning Alastair the Eladrin Wizard, Orsik the Dwarf Cleric, Yurk the Half-Orc Fighter and Maluzz the Drow Assassin headed up the mountain pass towards the mine. The uneventful journey was punctuated around lunch time by a terrible cry, as a large ogre came charging around a boulder to assault them. Unused to such encounters, no one realised the creature's movements and attacks were weaker than should be expected, but Alastair's keen eyes detected some rashes and boils on parts of its exposed skin. Yurk charged to the fore, and the four of them easily dispatched the creature; then Yurk proceeded to remove its scalp as a trophy, despite warnings from Orsik and Alastair that it may be tainted.
By mid afternoon they reached the mine entrance. The ﬁrst thing they noticed was the silence, only the wind could be heard whistling around the peaks. Then they saw the mining gear scattered amongst snowdrifts, some of it broken. Maluzz peered into the black mouth of the mine and his Drow darkvision revealed rents and blood on some of the support beams. “Blood has been spilled here,” he uttered.
Yurk activated his ﬂoating lantern and strode into the tunnel, leaving Maluzz to shield his eyes against the glare. After some hundred feet they came to a small room, square-walled, carved in the earth. An even-walled tunnel opened to their left, and a rough-hewn way gaped to the right. In the room itself they saw two overturned mining carts, and a pair of legs emerged from beneath one. Orsik went to explore, and failed to notice the ﬁne wire leading from the cart up to the ceiling. He shifted the cart and a deafening roar ﬁlled the room; a thunderstone had been dislodged from the ceiling and burst on the ﬂoor. Orsik was deafened by the sound, and the others at that point abandoned any thought of stealth. They studied the body under the cart, without touching it for fear of the plague, and saw that it was human – a well-dressed miner – with several wounds in his chest. A little exploration by Alastair revealed a broken-oﬀ arrowhead in one of the wounds, from an oversized arrow.
Signing to Orsik to follow, they made their way down the left tunnel sixty feet until the way was blocked by two wooden doors. Yurk pushed a door aside and peeked into the space beyond, and caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a dining room with several tables and benches, before a thrown hand axe smacked into the door beside his head.
He signalled to the others, then kicked the door open and charged into the room. There he saw a handful of orcs, some crouching behind an overturned table, who proceeded to hurl axes at him. Orsik, eventually realising that combat had been enjoined, burst into the room and summoned his god's wrath, causing his war-hammer to burst into ﬂames. He was so startled that he dropped the hammer, and spent most of the combat scuttling around trying to work out how to pick it up again. Despite Orsik's contribution, the heroes dispatched the orcs with relative ease – almost as if the creatures were weak and confused. After the brief but violent aﬀray at the end of a long day, the heroes barricaded the room's two doorways with tables, and hunkered down for the night.
About an hour later the as yet unexplored doorway opened a crack – no one realised that it opened outwards, away from the barricade – and a snuﬄing sound could barely be discerned by the Eladrin and Drow who were meditating in the room. Maluzz crept over silently and stood beside the door's archway, when the door opened further and a dark ﬁgure climbed silently onto the table and into the room. It was instantly dispatched by the assassin's ruthless blade, and Yurk awoke and charged at the door. He attempted to leap onto the table and burst through the doors, but his sleep-addled brain misjudged the leap and he smacked his shin on the table. Coming to his senses somewhat, he climbed over the table and pushed the door open, revealing a long store room with shelves lining the walls, and a barricade of barrels and boxes at the far end. Several more orcs were crouching behind the makeshift barricade, and one of them pulled on a rope, tearing open a large bag of ﬂour that had been crudely attached to the ceiling. The ﬂour cloud ﬁlled the room, blinding everyone, until Alastair summoned a pillar of ﬁre in the room, causing the ﬂour to explode, leaving the room smelling of burnt toast. The orcs, hurt by the blast, were ﬁnished oﬀ in short order, and the group of heroes attempted to catch up on the rest of the night's sleep.
Some time later – Maluzz and Orsik assured everyone it was morning – they trooped back to the cart room, and ventured to explore the rough tunnel opposite. The tunnel narrowed and slowly descended as they made they way along, until it suddenly levelled oﬀ about ten feet before opening into a cavern. Just as they were about to explore the cavern, Maluzz spotted a tripwire strung across the tunnel at its narrowest point. He pointed out the wire to the others, then leapt over it to explore the room beyond.
A large natural cavern opened before him, its relatively even ﬂoor punctuated by stalagmites, its walls inset with some faintly luminescent crystals and sparkling with silver ore, and its ceiling lost in the darkness above. He crept along the wall to his left for a way, and saw a distant tunnel leading away from the main cavern, but more pressingly saw an orc slouching by a large cluster of stalagmites.
He quietly crept back to the others and informed them of the situation. Yurk said that he would creep along the wall that Maluzz had, while Alastair would move around the wall's right curve and attempt to head towards the orc through the stalagmites. Maluzz and Orsik decided they'd hang back at the tunnel mouth and see what happened. All went well until Alastair kicked a small stone and the orc became aware of him. It pulled out a massive crossbow, bracing it against its belly as it ﬁred a full arrow straight at Alastair. The arrow smashed through the smaller stalagmites, catching the wizard oﬀ guard and throwing him back several paces. After that, battle was entered in earnest. Yurk and Alastair attacked the bow-wielding orc, when a second arrow whistled down at them. They turned and noticed a large opening some ten feet up one of the cavern walls, ropes hanging down into the cavern, and another orc standing there reloading his bellybow. Alastair summoned a pillar of ﬁre at the top of the ledge, earning many cries of dismay and pain. The orc on the cavern ﬂoor retreated towards the ropes, followed by Yurk and Maluzz. The Drow attempted a heroic feat, leaping onto the orc's shoulder to bound up the nearest rope; however the orc took displeasure at this and struck him forcefully with its great axe, wounding the assassin and knocking him to the ﬂoor. Another orc swung down a rope and lay about it with a club, and Yurk, Maluzz, and Orsik attempted to surround the two creatures, all the while dodging arrows and hand axes being hurled from above. Eventually one of the creatures was brought down, but not before much damage had been dealt to the heroes. Frustrated, Alastair cast a sleep spell on the orcs on the ledge, soon causing many of them to fall unconscious. He then stepped through the feywild, appearing on the ledge with his longsword drawn, and dispatched two of the unconscious orcs. Finishing oﬀ the last orc on the cavern ﬂoor, Yurk, Maluzz and Orsik climbed up the ropes beside Alastair and started attacking their foes, when a large orc covered in patterned scars and bone-and-feather necklaces strode towards them. They engaged the battle, but found themselves clearly outmatched by this brute, and the moralising eﬀect it had on the other orcs. Carving a path back to the ropes, Yurk fought rearguard as the others climbed down and attempted to ﬂee the cavern. All was going well, when the large orc summoned a mystical cloudy ball in its clawed hand, and hurled it at Alastair's feet. The Eladrin was blasted oﬀ his feet, and fell to the ﬂoor bleeding to death. Not knowing what to do, Orsik ran back and stuﬀed the wizard's limp form into his bag of holding, then scuttled out of the room, arrows whizzing around him. The three leapt over the tripwire and made it back to the cart room when Yurk and Maluzz asked what had happened to Alastair. The Dwarf extracted the Eladrin from the bag of holding just as his eyelids ﬂickered open. They all shrugged, then proceeded to barricade themselves in the dining room once more to recover.
Having tended their wounds and catching their breath, the heroes made their way back to the cavern, and again Maluzz scouted ahead. He saw an orc on the ﬂoor near the ropes, and another making its way back from the distant tunnel mouth. This time, knowing better what to expect, the party of heroes planned their assault, and dispatched the orcs on the ﬂoor before climbing up and engaging those few remaining on the ledge. When the last of the ﬁghting orcs was killed, the large orc leader threw down his weapons and spoke to Yurk in orcish, “I submit. What else can I do? First the sickness, then you, coming here and slaughtering what remains of my tribe. I have failed them.” Yurk ordered him to his knees, and asked what he knew of the sickness, to which the orc replied, “We came here seeking a place of shelter, but then the fevers and shakes assailed us. Then a group of men attacked our home, which we defended vigorously. The bodies of the men, and of our dead, vanished in the night. This worried us, and we set a permanent guard. Then you came.” A certain amount of empathy entered Yurk's heart, but more strongly he felt for the miners and their families. He drew his long knives, when the orc spoke, “At least let me die on my feet.” Yurk let the orc stand up, then slit his throat. He then explained to the others that the orcs hadn't caused the plague, but they had killed the miners. As one, they turned towards the distant tunnel mouth.
The party made their way cautiously along the narrow tunnel. The air grew heavier and deeper as they patch descended, until a horrible stench overpowered them. The tunnel widened into a long cave, its ﬂoor lost under heaps of corpses of men and orcs in various stages of decay. The party edged along a ledge, and Alastair summoned a ﬂoating disk, which he used to ferry Orsik to the opposite side of the cave. Yurk leapt down into the bodies and attempted to run the last few yards to the other side of the charnel pit, when four corpses stood up and started making their way towards the party. The horror of the situation overcame them, and they reluctantly fought the zombies, bringing two of them down. However the undead creatures were indomitable, rising again and lurching onwards. Yurk smashed two of them down for a second time, where they lay still among the corpses. Meanwhile Alastair was having diﬀiculty fending oﬀ the assault on his senses as well as his body, while attempting to maintain his magical disk. Eventually all four zombies were disposed of, but not before the wizard had sustained some serious injuries. Additionally, as the heat of battle left them, all four heroes felt feverish and felt a slight weakness attacking their muscles.
They continued along the tunnel, when it opened into a larger cave proper. The centre of the cave was marked by a rocky spire rising out of a shallow pool of water, a nature spring at its peak rushing into the pool, which appeared to drain to the far right of the cave. As they approached cautiously, a man stepped out from behind the spire and walked to the near side of the pool. They stopped and spoke to him, asking who he was and where he'd come from, to which they received no reply. Assuming him to be the cause of the plague, or somehow related, they feigned to be allies attempting to assist him. “Tell us friend,” Alastair spoke, “Where can we ﬁnd the source of the plague?”
“You are here,” the man said, in a strangely hollow voice. “Well, what can we do to help?” “It is done.”
During the almost one-sided conversation, and second man stepped out from behind the spire, sloshed across the pool, and slowly made his way around the wall of the cave, as though to get behind the party. Yurk called out to the second man, demanding he stop, and the man halted where he was. Not liking the situation at all, the party suddenly attacked the men, striking at them, when suddenly time seemed to stand still. An aura of horror radiated from the spire, and a third ﬁgure emerged from behind the spire and strode through the water. A faint wail emerged from Maluzz's throat, and the others were struck by a sense of dread, as the mindﬂayer made its was towards them. It stopped beside the ﬁrst man, and lashed out at Orsik with its tentacles, wrapping them around the dwarf's head. The heroes all turned their attacks on the abominable horror, beating at it relentlessly until it released Orsik. Occasionally it would blast them with a psychic force, several times stunning Yurk and making him unable to attack. Eventually they beat the mindﬂayer vigorously, and it suddenly vanished. The ﬁrst man turned and ﬂed through the water towards the spire, while the second man continued to attack them with his club. Ignoring the man and his ineﬀectual blows, the party headed towards the spire just as the mindﬂayer emerged from behind it. Alastair summoned a ball of ﬁre, like a small sun, which he sent over the water to harry the creature and its slave, coronal ﬂares licking out and scorching them every few seconds. Yurk charged through the water to engage them directly. One particularly powerful blow landed on the mindﬂayer, and suddenly the man collapsed beside it. The second man immediately ran to its side. Sensing something strange going on, Yurk separated the man and the mindﬂayer, and blow after blow from the heroes eventually killed the creature; not before its tentacles had latched to Maluzz's head scarring his face, and damaging his scalp with its beak. The instant the mindﬂayer fell to the ground, the man beside it collapsed unconscious. Greatly perturbed, the party picked up both the dead mindﬂayer and the unconscious man, and made their way out of the cave. As they headed oﬀ, they noticed that the water bubbling from the spring appeared to be clear where it had previously been cloudy and murky.
On the body of the mindﬂayer they found a small glass phial ﬁlled with a strange silvery powder, and a piece of parchment written with strange text:
Boil the following ingredients in pure water until they dissolve into a milky liquid: - 1 mindflayer tentacle - 1 pound gray ooze flesh - 50gp residuum Repeat the following syllables over the liquid four times: ormas lolfir netorog fi'makh smah'ru When the liquid turns truly black, drink it and sickness and weakness will be overcome.
Alastair ferried them through the horrible room full of corpses on his magical disk, then set an arcane ﬁre in the place, and the four ﬂed quickly to escape the smoke and horror of it all. Yurk picked up some hand axes from the dead orcs as they passed through the main cavern, and they made their way back along the ﬁrst corridor towards the cave mouth. Early morning greeted them, and they walked the rest of the way back to Duvik's Pass without event – they reasoned that the aura of the dead mindﬂayer would have been enough to keep all but the most stupid attackers away. At the village they were welcomed nervously; the news of their dead men caused a great upset, and the dead mindﬂayer began rumours which would be unlikely to die down for a very long time. Yurk strode boldly into the mayor's oﬀice and threw the mindﬂayer corpse onto the table, saying, “There is the cause of your plague.” Alastair then explained more eloquently what they'd discovered in the mine. The village elders were so grateful, they pledged that the four heroes would always ﬁnd welcome in Duvik's Pass, and heaped on them whatever riches they could ﬁnd – mostly silver ornaments and trinkets. They were put up for the night in the inn, given the greatest feast the innkeeper could manage, and in the morning were directed towards the city of Arobel where they might be able to ﬁnd a scholar to help them unravel the mystery of the mindﬂayer's parchment.
Episode 2: Two Temples
In the morning Maluzz's fever hadn't improved. He had trouble waking up, and felt a little faint as he made his way downstairs.
The heroes set out mid morning, provisioned with ﬁve horses the townsfolk had loaned them. They wound their way down the mountain road and into the plains. Empty grassland, occasionally punctuated by lone trees or small thickets, stretched for miles North, West, and South, without a single beast or bird in sight. Eventually the road made its way to the side of a wide, deep river, running down from the mountains across the plains.
In the afternoon they came to a place where the river widened and the road turned to cross it in a shallow ford. Yurk waded into the water, discovering a rocky footing some three or four feet deep. He and Alastair lead their horse across, while Maluzz and Orsik rode to and up the western bank. They let the horses forage while they dried oﬀ and set up camp.
In the morning Maluzz's fever had broken, but he still felt weak. The party broke camp leisurely and headed oﬀ in no hurry. Close to noon Alastair noticed a ﬁgure in the distance. Eventually it resolved into a travelling tinker pulling a box cart along the road towards them. They hailed the stranger cautiously, however a few minutes' conversing convinced them he was nothing more than he seemed. The tinker was making his usual yearly trip up through the mountains, so they told him about the plague in Duvik's Pass and how there would probably be work for him in the town. In turn he had nothing much to report about the road he'd travelled – he hadn't seen or heard any rumour of wild creatures or bandits, or anyone else for that matter. They parted ways, and the heroes rode on until they came to another ford; across the water the road vanished under the eaves of a dark forest, its shadows reaching across the river to their feet as the westering sun dipped towards the horizon.
They scouted the ford and found several large reptilian footprints, but guessed that they were probably old and no threat. The party crossed the river as before, and plunged beneath the trees. After a few miles, at a place where the trunks of the giant oaks were quite wide spread, the last of the daylight failed. Alastair found a hollow between some large trees with room enough for the ﬁve horses. They set up a camp and settled down for the night.
During the night Maluzz started at a shadow ﬂitting between the trees at the edge of his vision. He alerted Alastair silently, and the two kept watch. Soon thereafter a large howl erupted from the trees, and a giant wolf stepped forward. Yurk instantly leapt to his feet, long knives drawn, and Alastair quickly herded the horses together in the middle of the hollow. Several horse-sized wolves emerged from the trees; one leapt for the horses while the others feinted at the party. Yurk charged to the horses' defence, killing most of the wolves; only one of the beasts escaped the aﬀray, slinking oﬀ into the forest. Orsik and Alastair calmed the horses, while Yurk threw himself down and went back to sleep.
The next morning they headed oﬀ again, eager to get out from under the trees. By mid morning the trees gave way and they felt the sun on their heads again. About a league ahead of them they could see a city rising above the plains.
The heroes rode through the gates, and a bubble of silence surrounded them as they wandered in search of a temple or library. Eventually they found a large temple, obviously dedicated to Pelor; Yurk and Maluzz stayed outside with the horses while Alastair and Orsik entered the temple. A priest shuﬄed up and introduced himself as Brother Aaun, asking if he could help with anything. They very brieﬂy described their situation, and asked if there was anyone in the temple who might be able to help them research the underdark.
Brother Aaun showed them to the public library, and sent an acolyte to look for one Brother Aoun, who had been a missionary and adventurer in his youth. Meanwhile Yurk and Maluzz scouted the city, searching for tanners who might be willing and able to do something with their mindﬂayer. Eventually Orsik and Alastair were directed to a temple garden, where they saw an old man in priest's robes resting on a bench. They introduced themselves and told their tale to Brother Aoun. He grew more active as their tale progressed, asking details about the mine, the plague, and the mindﬂayer. His curiosity well and truly piqued, the old priest inspected the phial ﬁrst, instantly recognising it as residuum. The word triggered something in Alastair's memory, and he realised that he should have recognised the pure, condensed magic for what it was. Then they showed Brother Aoun the parchment. He frowned at it, recognising some of the symbols as Drow script, but not in any form he could read. He invited them to the deep library while he did some research.
Just as the day was turning towards dusk, the old priest called out triumphantly. He ﬂourished a sheet of paper containing his translation of the parchment.
Boil the following ingredients in pure water until they dissolve into a milky liquid: - 1 mindflayer tentacle - 1 pound gray ooze flesh - 50gp residuum Repeat the following syllables over the liquid four times: ormas lolfir netorog fi'makh smah'ru When the liquid turns truly black, drink it and sickness and weakness will be overcome.
“It appears to be a scroll,” he explained, “I'm fairly sure I've captured the details, but some of the nuances of meaning are a little ambiguous.” They thanked him, then asked if he had any idea where they could ﬁnd a gray ooze. He suggested the river, which wound around the west wall of the city; perhaps the shelter provided by the sewers where they opened on the water could be a place to search. Heartened, they went oﬀ to ﬁnd Maluzz and show him what they assumed to be a cure for his plague-induced weakness.
The four heroes spent the night in a nearby inn, and were joined at breakfast by Brother Aaun, who told them he was about to take on a missionary role for the temple, and their tale of the woes that had befallen Duvik's Pass seemed to him an obvious calling. They asked if he could take their horses and return them to their rightful owners, an oﬀer he accepted happily. He told them the easiest way to enter the sewers, then lead the horses back to the temple to get them kitted out for his journey.
|Warning: Draft Text|
In the muck beneath the city Alastair was bitten unpleasantly by a crocodile, and they fought some unfriendly but unfortunately not grey-coloured oozes. The four eventually found a dead-end room mostly full of eﬄuent with a couple of frogs the size of large dogs. Some frogs pulled Yurk into the sewage with their long tongues, but eventually all were overcome. In the room they discovered and killed a grey ooze. They immediately set about invoking the ritual on the scroll, using Alastair's magic ﬁre to boil some water.
Orsik watched as Maluzz drank the pitch black liquid, his every religious ﬁbre shuddering. A strange aura radiated from the drow – even stranger than his usual shady aura – as if he were bathed in a strange anti-light. Alastair repeated the horrible ritual, then scoﬀed the vile substance himself. The Eladrin's fey eyes took on an uncanny glow, and his ﬂesh took on a more vibrant colour. A third time he repeated the ritual, boiling the godless tentacle and the quivering ooze and repeating the syllables – each one grating on the dwarf's psyche. Yurk it was this time who took up the pot and drank it down. Orsik always found it hard to judge anything about the half orc, but he was sure the potion had had an eﬀect – he just didn't know what. When the fourth and ﬁnal tentacle was used to complete the ritual one last time, Alastair proﬀered the pot to Orsik. How could he explain to the others that his heart, mind, and soul were screaming at him; that he felt some thing in the ritual, something beyond good and evil, something that caused even his stout dwarven courage to falter? Instead he shook his head, so Maluzz took the drink a second time.
The others were ebullient, oblivious to the darkness that had settled over Orsik, laughing spontaneously and exclaiming at how vibrant they felt. Keen to see the sunlight again, Orsik made to head back through the gate and along the sewers, when Yurk bounded enthusiastically ahead of him, calling, “Let me take the point! ” The big ﬁghter took oﬀ down the narrow walkway, leaping blithely over the channels that crossed their path, and almost immediately he was lost to the dwarf's sight. Then Yurk stopped, suddenly aware of a strangeness around him. The walls had a slightly faded or washed-out appearance to them, and some strange new texture appeared to be emerging beneath the masonry.
Alastair, sensing some discomfort in his ally, asked Orsik if he was alright. The dwarf's reply seemed muﬄed or distant, and it occurred to the wizard that the cleric appeared slightly wan or subdued. Keen to help, Alastair summoned his ﬂoating disc and helped Orsik climb aboard behind him. The two ﬂoated along the wide sewer tunnel, until a slight shift suggested that Orsik had leapt oﬀ. Turning, Alastair couldn't see the dwarf anywhere, and he noticed for the ﬁrst time that the walls looked decidedly strange. “Orsik? Where are you? ” he called, and he faintly heard his companion's voice echoing from the chamber they'd just left. Alastair ﬂoated his disc back down the passageway, and noticed a strange shadow that, as he ﬂoated along, resolved into Orsik, trudging wetly along the gangway. The dwarf shouted something muﬄed about falling through the disc and landing up to his waist in waste, then hearing Alastair's call reverberating up from the ooze chamber. Alastair, his exuberance overriding his concern for this smelly, gruﬀ, insulting dwarf, shrugged and turned his disc, ﬂoating back along the tunnel to join Yurk and Maluzz.
Orsik shuddered as his supposed friend ﬂoated away, fading through transparency again and vanishing as he travelled up the tunnel. Desperate for contact with sanity, and wanting answers, Orsik resolved to make his way back to the temple to ﬁnd Brother Biel. He had little diﬀiculty navigating the dark tunnel, especially since his recent fall had left him less obliged to keep his feet dry. He soon emerged from the sewer access and stalked back to the temple, his smell as much as his radiant mood clearing a way through the throngs in the streets. At the temple he was given a chance to cursorily wash himself as someone was sent to fetch Brother Biel. When the aged missionary arrived, Orsik explained in detail the eﬀect of each stage of the ritual, and the various reactions to drinking the potion. The two spent the rest of the afternoon in the deep library, researching all the materials they could ﬁnd about ancient drow rituals, the eﬀects of consuming abominable ﬂesh, and the meanings of the syllables.
ormas lolﬁr netorog ﬁ'makh smah'ru
Eventually they determined that there were amongst the syllables references to the goddess Lolth and the King that Crawls, Torog, and what appeared to be a subtle but potent reference to the early gods' drawing of vitality from the elemental chaos; but the full meaning could not be determined. Obviously they were words of power, and their very sounds were what ultimately powered the ritual. However with the glimpses they had seen into the nature of the ritual, and by considering the fading and vanishing act the drinkers had pulled, Brother Biel and Orsik determined that the adventurers had shifted into some other plane; probably a nearby demiplane which resembled the real world quite closely, but potentially as distant and diﬀerent as the elemental chaos itself. The choices that presented themselves to Orsik now were either to stay here with Brother Biel, attempting to ﬁnd some further information to help him and his friends; or to head back into the sewer and see if he could take any more immediate action.
The three potion-drinkers decided to explore this interesting new place they had discovered. The walls were a faintly luminescent green, and the water – previously brownish eﬄuent – was now a brilliant and unnatural turquoise. After a few random turnings they found themselves in a chamber with a small footbridge crossing the stream, leading to a doorway. Through the doorway they discovered a large square room with an altar set directly opposite them, and archways set behind it on either side. The archways were bordered with strange runes, each of which glowed faintly in an arcane blueish tint.
They explored the altar and discovered sketches and engravings of spiders around it, and noticed a large spider sigil carved into the wall behind.
The left archway opened into a tunnel that bent around to the left, opening into a long rectangular space lined with six statues of armed knights in armour. At the far end of the space sat on a stand a large hammer and shield. Alastair entered the room, and as he passed the ﬁrst two statues, all six came to life, surging towards him with their weapons raised. Yurk ran into the room, attempting to get between the statues and Alastair, while Alastair darted for the arms on their stand. Grabbing hold of them, he teleported to the near end of the room, emerging beside Maluzz, while Yurk shifted and dodged his way out to join them. The three ﬂed back to the main chamber before inspecting their loot. Not wanting to bear the extra weight, they left the arms resting against the wall just outside the archway.
The right archway bent to the right and opened into a huge round room with four great pillars supporting the distant roof. Tunnels lead out of the room in the four cardinal directions. Strange runes – two runes, repeated at odd angles – were graven into some ﬂoor tiles. When walking over one of the runes, Yurk noticed everyone else slow down and talk slightly slower; while stepping onto the other rune Maluzz saw everyone blur with speed as their voices raised pitch. In the room they saw the remains of several dragonborn – obviously reanimated zombies. Using the ﬂoor runes to their advantage, the three heroes eventually defeated the zombies, but it was not an easy ﬁght. Maluzz discovered that the left and right tunnels wound around the room, eventually joining the fourth tunnel at an intersection just beyond where they could see.
At the end of the fourth tunnel they saw a smaller room, with a stand set against the far wall, hung on it a leather baldric and a black metal torc. When they stepped into the room, a hidden door behind them slammed shut and two sections of wall faded, become transparent. From the spaces beyond two ﬂoating wraiths emerged. After a long and diﬀicult ﬁght the wraiths were dispatched, each one exploding with a blast slightly altering the heroes' positions in space and time as it fell. Yurk took the torc and baldric from the stand and they carried them back to the main chamber.
Alastair determined that, while the hammer and shield had contained magic that altered mass and inertia, the torc and baldric contained powerful spells that altered time. Yurk snapped the torc around his neck, and slung the baldric around his chest. He instantly felt a slight quickening of his heart, and noticed the faintest drop in the pitch of his friends' voices.
As they rested, recovering from the unexpectedly voilent ﬁghts, the heroes barely noticed a dimming of the walls. The strange luminescence faded away, being replaced with mundane, slightly mouldy stonework. Leaving the chamber they found themselves back in the sewers; the layout matched their memory, but the texture – and smell – were much more mundane than they recalled.
They retraced their steps, emerging from the sewers just as they met Orsik heading towards them. He had decided to search for his allies, and was eager to hear their strange tale. He demanded that they show him to the strange temple, and they acceded, leading him to the chamber with the bridge, and into the square room beyond. Immediately they noticed that the archways were now merely alcoves, set not even a foot into the solid stone walls, and the runes around them had no glow. Orsik decided he preferred his familiar hammer and shield, so left those from the statue room where they lay against the wall, and he turned to study the altar. He shuddered and the symbolism of the spiders, then detected the faintest movement of air from the wall behind. Detecting a hidden door, the dwarf drew back his mighty hammer and smashed it against the door with all his might. The door swung freely, bashing into the wall and rebounding, hitting Orsik in the face. He shook his head, blinked a few times, then took in the stairway before him leading down into darkness.
Episode 3: The Maze of Spiders
At the foot of the stairs was a space, maybe ten feet by ﬁfteen, with walls of what appeared to be polished obsidian – strange shadows seemed to swirl just beneath the surface, and the walls were neither cool nor warm to touch; and without casting shadows, the walls seemed somehow illuminated. A switch was set prominently in the wall opposite them. Fearing mischief, the four backed out of the chamber and Alastair summoned his mage hand, and used it to throw the switch. Two sections of wall vanished, revealing hallways. After some ten seconds the sections of wall reappared; then ten seconds later they vanished again. Assuming a pattern, the group split into two groups, Yurk and Maluzz exploring one hallway, Alastair and Orsik the other.
Every ten seconds the walls changed, each time a single wall appeared or disappeared, while some walls remained permanent. Maluzz attempted to map the maze in his mind, eventually being forced to separate from Yurk by the shifting walls. Eventually Yurk emerged in a small chamber the exact mirror of the ﬁrst, complete with switch. Less than a minute later Maluzz emerged from the toggling maze; then Alastair came from the other way, both telling stories of horrible webby swarms of spiders, and large jumping spiders.
Bored, Yurk threw the switch and the walls stopped shifting. Alastair exclaimed that Orsik was still in there somewhere with the spiders, and threw the switch, causing the walls to start shifting again. He plunged into the maze and eventually extracted a pale, shaking Orsik. All they could get from the dwarf for some time was “spiders.. so many spiders..”
They threw the switch again, causing the walls to cease their dance, and listened at what appeared to be a door in front of them. Maluzz determined that it would slide sideways into the wall, and decided he couldn't hear anything beyond it. Opening the door he was surprised by a hideous sight: a huge beast, shaped like a spider with the naked torso of a female drow where its head should have been. “Drider!” he shouted, then lunged at the hideous form with his blades drawn.
Several smaller spiders also ﬁlled the chamber, and a barred grate was set into the ﬂoor. The spiders were dispatched one by one, with Orsik snivelling the entire time and ﬂinching for no apparent reason, until only the drider remained facing them, standing over the grate. Suddenly a horrible sound emerged from the grate, and a beam of light lanced up, piercing the drider and weakening it as the heroes surrounded it and ﬁnished it oﬀ.
Still surrounding the grate, the party were hardly surprised when the irong bars erupted upwards and a horrendous sight emerged – every one of them had heard tales of the abominable beings the ﬂoated through the underdark, enslaving and destroying every living thing they encountered; giant hovering eyeballs with hideous maws, and many smaller eyes on tentacles emerging from the main body.
Instantly and without hesitation the four attacked. The beholder was so surprised it barely managed to blink and randomly ﬁre oﬀ a lance of radiance from its main eye before it was dealt a fatal blow. Its eyes extinguished, it fell back into the abyss beneath, and the heroes heard it rebound from the walls many times as it tumbled into darkness.
Astounded at facing – and defeating – both a drider and a beholder in a single ﬁght, the four searched the room, soon ﬁnding the drider's former sleeping chamber, lined with many cobwebs. Alastair set a magic ﬁre in the room, clearing away the webs and bones. Using a rope, they lowered Maluzz some way down the hold, and he saw several tunnels and caves opening into the tunnel some tens of feet below. When they drew him back up, he using some pitons from his climbing kit as nails, hammering the iron grate back into place over the dreaded hole. Then they went into the drider's sleeping chamber and closed the door.
After some six hours Orsik – the last to awake – stirred and opened his eyes. The four adventurers emerged from their safe room cautiously, then made their way siftly back to and through the shifting maze – Orsik refusing to move more than a step from Yurk. In the main chamber Orsik noticed an oddity in one of the walls, and when he explored it a secret doorway swung open. Within they discovered a bed – and in it an ancient skeleton, still wearing the remnants of its robes – a chest, and a lectern. Around the skeleton's neck was a chain with a key, which they used to open the chest. Within they found a silvery carcanet, which Alastair placed on his forehead. Open on the lectern was a scroll containing the ritual for resurrecting a recently-dead corpse. Orsik pocketed it, assuming it might come in handy. Then they made their way back through the sewers.
Back in the streets of Arobel, the four found their way to the imperial guardhouse and sought an audience with the prince. Eventually they were ushered in to a smallish room, passing between armed guards either side and in- and outside of the doorway, where a group of men stood leaning over a map on a table. They all appeared tall and strong, and the set of their shoulders indicated a surety of their position as well as combat training and experience.
One of the men – introduced as Prince Félipe, Crown Prince of Cormyr and Ruler of the City of Arobel – gestured to the four adventurers, who told him of their adventures in his sewers – leaving out mention of abominable potions and glowing doorways for present, focusing rather on the real and present fact of creatures from the underdark being present mere yards below the city.
The Prince called for ﬁve royal guardsmen and requested that the heroes lead them to this unholy temple. The guards were introduced as Ran the Blue – the captain of the squad, and a seasoned veteran of many battles – Large Eady – a gruﬀ veteran who spoke in clipped monosyllables – Fen Longshield – a young man who had some training as a combat healer, and who gawked openly at the heroes from four strange races – Vert Greenknife – a beefy young guardsman who didn't speak much – and Hedlyn – a young man who spoke loudly and boldly, despite never having faced real combat.
The troupe had a luncheon meal in the guards' mess hall, and Ran explained the plan, “You four will show us to this hole in the ground, and we'll explore it to see just how far it goes. Remember: if anything happens, try to keep out of trouble and we'll do our best to pretect. We're professionals, after all.” Alastair in particular took oﬀense at the patronising sentiment, but agreed to stay back if the ﬁghting got serious. Then in the afternoon they went back into the sewers, making their way unmolested to the temple. The four lead the ﬁve down to the maze, and explained what they could of its operation and its shape – Maluzz's mental map, being copied out, revealed the maze as a symmetrical pattern.
They split into twos and made their way through the maze. The heroes emerged before the veteran guardsmen, who had spent some time cleaning up the remaining spiders. Once the drider chamber was determined to be free of lingerers and traps, a plan was struck. Vert and Hedlyn remained to guard the temple, while the others would climb down ropes to the ﬁrst side-tunnel. The tunnel curved back on itself twice, forming an s-bend, before emerging in a larger way crossed by an icy stream. They party tended to the left each time the tunnel branched, and slowly made their way generally downwards, until eventually they heard the scuttling of many large chitinous legs ahead.
They stepped around the bend and saw another drider, and some smller – but still imposing – spiders. The combat training of the royal guards was obvious as they instantly took up positions, some guarding the heroes, the others engaging and ﬂanking their opponents. The spider beasts were overcome quickly and at little cost. Then the seven continued on their way.
Eventually the tunnel narrowed in front of them. Maluzz snuck ahead, relying on his darkvision and aﬀinity for such places, and swiftly and silently made his way around another s-bend. He peaked around a corner and found himself face-to-face with a huge, grey-skinned humanoid with large teeth and blank skin where eyes should have been. The two were obviously startled, and backed away from each other.
Ran lead Eady and Yurk around the bend, and found a gathering of the beings before them. A ﬁght was joined immediately, and through the ﬂow of blows and steps, Ran found himself drawn into the midst of them. Yurk plunged into the chamber, lashing about wildly with his father's long knives, constantly being knocked down, but lithely shifting and rolling through the throng, killing more than half a dozen of the creatures. Eventually he found himself outmatched and backed into the narrow way from which they'd entered. Ran – the last of the seven in the chamber – turned to join him, but was grappled from behind and lost in a ﬂurry of claws and teeth. Eady shouted at everyone to retreat, and guarded the rear while the remaining six ﬂed.
Back at the ropes they called out to Vert and Hedlyn, but heard no response. Cautiously they climbed the ropes and saw the reason for the silence – the large for of Vert lay crumpled dead in a pool of blood by the sliding doorway. Beside him lay two hobgoblins. The six plunged into the maze and in small groups met up with – and slaughtered – hobgoblins they encountered, lost and frustrated by the shifting walls.
They made their way back to the sewers, and caught up with a smaller group of hobgoblins, which they mowed down, then ran back to the surface, hoping to warn the city of this breach. Back at the surface they saw that night had fallen, and they heard the distant clash of battle; a glow behind them indicated that the western gate was under attack. They made their way through the streets until they detected a potential ambush site. Maluzz vasnished into the shadows, then suddenly appeared wiping his blade. “Hobgoblins ahead” he muttered, indicating the direction with a nod of his head.
The party surprised the would-be ambushers, and eventually overcame the hobgoblin raiding party, despite being drastically outnumbered. Fen and Orsik's combat healing was called into use several times. Eventually they made it to the guardhouse and were ushered inside. It turned out that Hedlyn had hardly escaped the sewers and raised the alarm just before the assault on the gates. He was currently being treated inside. The four adventurers were shown to an empty dormitory, and guards were set outside their door. The four didn't mind, and slept greatfully until dawn.
Episode 4: Royal Charge
In the morning they emerged from their room; the two guards followed them discretely to the mess hall. Many other guardsmen were present, including one they recognised – Hedlyn – who greeted them cheerfully. They listened to his tale, then described their adventure, and many of the gathered guardsmen were disheartened at the news of Ran. Apparently he had been well-known and -liked amongst the royal guards.
Soon they were summoned before Prince Félipe, who was wearing full armour and had soot and blood on his face and hands. He asked them to repeat their tale, which they did. When they'd ﬁnished, after some questions and nods, he thanked them for the service they'd performed for his city, and asked them what they intended to do next. They said that they weren't sure, so he asked if they would perform one last service – carry a message to his father the King in Cormyr City to the South. They agreed, and were provisioned with packs and horses, as well as a sealed letter and a token from the Prince.
Being well-rested, they set out immediately, through the undamaged South Gate. Not two hundred yards from the gate, where the road crossed a branch of the river, they party found themselves ambushed by a group of hobgoblins who had escaped the ﬁghting at the West Gate and were causing mischief where they could. The ﬁght was protracted, but ultimately one-sided, and the four adventurers eventually killed every last hogboglin. They regathered their horses, and headed on south.
After some days of easy travel, occasionally catching glimpses of a great lake to their left, with small villages on its shores where it drew nearest to the road, eventually the party entered a more wooded area. At one particular bend, an unpleasant man stepped into the road and demanded all their treasures. Alastair scoﬀed, and dismissed the man out-of-hand, suggesting that he stand aside. He grinned and gestured, and several of his friends emerged from behind trees and stones. Alastair sighed, Yurk leapt down from his horse, and Maluzz vanished. The motley troupe of brigands outnumbered the heroes, and there were some good ﬁghters, as well as a magic user, amongst them; they were worn down gradually, but not without some cost to the heroes. When the ﬁght became particularly desparate, sudden help unlooked-for came from the trees. A ranger with a longbow and longsword emerged and dispatched several of the remaining brigands. The leader surrendered, and was bound, and the ranger introduced himself as Lers, one of King Brian's bounders, charged with keeping the roads free of brigands and thieves. He had been tracking this particular troupe for some days, and the heroes' attack was the perfect opportunity to wipe them out. He, and the chief brigand, joined their march to the city, only a day and a half away.
In Cormyr City their companion Lers, not to mention their tokens from Prince Félipe, granted them almost immediate audience with the King. He ﬁrst heard from Lers, who described the ﬁght and released his prisoner into the King's custody; then King Brian turned to the adventurers and listened to their tale – starting in Duvik's Pass, all the way to the tunnels under Arobel, and along the road to Cormyr City. He heard their tale, then read the sealed letter from his son. After some time contemplating, he thanked the four and instructed that they be rewarded for their services to the kingdom.
They kicked around the city for a few days, then decided to head back to Duvik's Pass. On their way through they returned the horses to Prince Félipe, and marched back to the mountains on foot. Back in Duvik's Pass they were welcomed as heroes, and one Becavin – widowed by the plague and orcs in the mines – surrendered her home to them out of gratitude for all they'd done. They asked her to stay on as a housekeeper, not wanting her to be left homeless, which she accepted proudly. There they stayed for a few days, before the urge to check on the state of the mine overcame them.
Episode 5: Back Underground
Eventually they four made their way back to the mine, exploring the familiar chambers and sensing a cleanliness and vitality in the place since the orcs and the foul mindﬂayer – not to mention the malevolent plague – had been removed. Suddenly Maluzz let out a gasp; he pushed a section of wall in the the main chamber where the thunderstone trap had been, and it opened up. A secret doorway lead to a hidden staircase winding down beneath the mine.
At the foot of the stairs the adventurers found the ruins of an ancient keep. In one of the chambers stood a crypt, with a plaque announcing the resting place of Sir Nias þe Warhammer, who had apparently been lord of the keep guarding the mountaing passes some time during the old empire.
Not seeing any obvious treasures, and not wanting to desecrate the place, the four continued exploring until they found the lowest room in the keep, containing a well, and found that one of the walls had been tunelled into – or out of. Silently they probed the dark tunnel, ﬁnding that it had been roughly walled up. Orsik pushed at the wall and it collapsed, and Yurk instantly leapt through into a proper room beyond. A shriek welcomed them and a small kobold, startled by their sudden appearance, plastered itself to the opposite wall. Alastair stepped in and insouciantly sat on the edge of a table, gesturing kindly to the creature. It edged along the wall until it reached a door, then ﬂed down the corridor. Yurk and Alastair shared a grin, and Maluzz shook his head.
Following the kobold, Orsik lead the way down the hallway. They passed between empty prison cells, until the way was blocked by a large door. On the other side they discovered a barracks, full of armed kobolds. The small dragon-like creatures attacked, and the party unconcernedly killed them one by one. They explored the room and Orsik sensed that, despite having been lived in for a long time, this place was not made by kobolds. They explored an adjacent armoury and found it full of rusting, rotten man-sized armour and weapons.
Beyond the barracks they found a chamber that opened in four directions. West the way they'd come, South stairs lead up into darkness, East an illumated room full of strange statues, and North stairs descended to a lower level. A distant thrum, as of many people going about their daily lives, came from that way. The eastern room turned out to be full of primitive statues, of kobolds, the size of men, carved out of stone. The southern stairs lead up to a T-intersection in a hallway that was collapsed and full of rubble and falled stones the the east, but open down yet more stairs to the west.
Maluzz lead the way in that direction, and stopped before a sudden and apparently deep pit spanning the corridor. He leapt across it, followed by Yurk, and they found themselves in a square room some twenty feet to a side, heaped wall-to-wall with gold coins and treatures. Instantly overcome with treasure lust, the four began stuﬀing sacks and purses – even Orsik's bag of holding – with as much gold as they could. Alastair went back to ﬁnd a box or barrel, and during the mindless plunder several kobolds emerged from the northern stairs, sneaking up on the separated heroes. Several ﬁghts broke out, and the heroes – although startled at ﬁrst – soon regained their composure, and their experiences came to the aid as they killed the kobolds. After that they took on an air of silent purposefulness, methodically and quietly removing what treasure they could, transporting heaps of it in the bag of holding, into a barrel. When they decided they had taken long enough – not to mention taken enough gold – they carefully and slowly carted the heavy barrel back through the keep, and left it behind the secret door in the mine. Then they quietly made their way back down to the kobold fortress, and decided to explore the northern stairs.
At the foot of the stairs they found ﬁve-by-ﬁve foot room with another man-sized but primitive kobold statue in the centre and doorways east, north, and west. Maluzz explored the northern way, while the others peers eastward. They found more rooms, the same size, full of miscellaneous clutter and rags, apparently the living places of fmilies of kobolds. Some of the rooms were occupied by the small dragon-people, going about their daily tasks, chattering amongst themselves.
Silently Maluzz slipped into a room containing two kobolds and dispatched them without making a noise. Alastair stepped around a corner and summoned an arcane ﬁre that killed some more of the creatures, before he and Yurk drew their blades, marching through the rooms slaughtering the creatures.
In the western way, alerted by the cries, a group of kobolds had managed to gather arms and arrayed themselves for a battle; however they were still no match for the brutal assault from the adventurers. Some of the larger kobolds escaped southward. Following them, the four encountered a better-equipped and more organised group of kobolds, wearing dragon-scale armour and carrying long spears and swords. Behind them stood a small white dragon, almost the size of a pony. The ensuing ﬁght was bitter, and the adventurers were hard put to it, but eventually they defeated all the draconic creatures in the place.
Having joined the ﬁght after his friends were already engaged, Orsik ﬁnally had a chance to consider what had happened. Alastair simply shrugged and said, “I couldn't rightly leave a city of evil kobolds lurking right beneath our mine, not after what we've already been through the clean it out.”
Episode 6: Mushrooms in the Dark
At the southern edge of the fortress the heroes discovered a door opening into a huge, dark cavern which they decided to explore. As they made their way they noticed a growing abundance of fungii lining the deep corners and walls. Some emitted a faint luminescence that was enough for them to see by. They probed every corner and crevice as they went along, not wanted to be attacked from behind. In one larger crack, full of funguses, a strange fungal blob detached from the wall and ﬂoated towards them. It showered them with caustic spores, so they attacked it. When it burst it showered them with more spores. They continuged exploring, but were a bit more cautious of sentient fungus from then on.
Around a bend the cavern became more narrow but uniform, and the narrowest of tracks lead between the fungal growths. Eventually several large toadstool-shaped growths stood up and lumbered towards them, wielding large woody clubs, and ahead ﬂoated more of the spore blobs. The adventurers fought of the horrible funguses, and discovered that they had been guarding what appeared to be a ﬂedgling colony in a bulge of the cavern.
One way lead through the colony, and around the corner they encountered a giant cockroach-like beast, scrabbling desperately at a 10-foot cliﬀ. Yurk recognised it as a rust monster, and Orsik determined that he would go nowhere near it – not while wearing his plate armour. They other three snuck around a corner and discovered several kobold corpses. They were relatively fresh, and all had had their hands removed. Suddenly they noticed more and larger sentient funguses, lurching towards them in the cavern. After a short ﬁght the shambling creatures were defeated, and the three decided to clear a way to let Orsik into the cavern. The edged towards the rust monster, then rushed it as a single unit, killing the poor beast almost instantly.
Reunited, the four made their way up a small incline and found themselves in a cave at the end of the cavern. Pools of water lay in low sections of the ﬂoor, and, disgustingly, a pile of severed hands lay by a pillar in the centre of the cave. As they entered, a skittering sound caught their attention. Yurk edged deeper into the cave, circling to the left, when suddenly a pile of hands swarmed up and grasped him, anchoring him to the spot. Alastair attacked with ﬁre are the others swatted at individual hands – more of them scuttled out from deeper in the cave as the ﬁght wore on. Eventually, as the crawling severed hands were being crushed, their necromantic powers leeching away, a dark ﬁgured was seen scurrying about in the back of the cave.
Alastair directed a blast into the darkness, and a small shadowy ﬁgure emerged. It threw some daggers, mostly an irritation to the heroes, then called out a horrible phrase and four more crawling hands emerged from the ground around Alastair. Ignoring most of the hands, the party focused their attacks on the ﬂitting dark ﬁgure, and eventually they brought him down. However, as he died a burst of darkness erupted from him, searing the eyes of those nearby.
As the last of the hands were destroyed and disposed of, they group began to explore. They discovered a pool of blood, which Alastair determined was part of the ritual the dark creature had used to raise undead hands, and a deep pit, partly ﬁlled with disﬁgured and rotting hands. Making their way back out from this dead-end, they stopped by the ledge the rust monster had been so desperate to reach. Yurk gave Maluzz a boost, and they discovered a gilded spear, probably belonging to one of the kobolds, which Alastair detected as extremely magical. They shovelled a few gold coins from the bag of holding, enough to ﬁt the spear, and decided they'd had enough of exploring this cavern for the time being.
The four back-tracked and made their way back to the kobold fortress. Then the four heroes moved north, soon ﬁnding a long east-west corridor with two northern doors. One of them lead to a chamber that had caved in, but the other had a chamber at the top of a long ﬂight of stairs down into a smaller, brighter cavern.
They climbed down the stairs, following the cavern as it bent eastward, and cautiously made their way down the steps of a lava ﬂow to a deeper, larger cavern. As they emerged on the lower ﬂoor, Maluzz's keen eyes detected movement to the north, just as a ﬁgure stepped out from behind a large pillar of stone. A kobold with a shield and spears, it hurled a javelin at the party then ducked back behind its cover.
Yurk and Maluzz fanned out, attempting to engage and, if possble, surround and kobolds lurking in the space beyond. Many kobolds were killed, and several pitched battles were underway, when a deafening roar echoed through the cavern.
The kobolds grew heartened at the sound, and their renewed their attacks. Then Yurk, sneaking westward towards the rest of the cavern, gave a cry of dismay and ﬂed back to the southern part of the cavern. An enormous white dragon had emerged, and was stalking towards them. At times it would beat its great wings, leaping into the air and lunging forward. Occasionally it would draw a deep breath, then blast forth with a cloud of icy vapour that sapped the strength from the heroes. Almost casually the great beast herded the four back towards the upper cavern. Alastair summoned a zone of grasping shadows in a narrow place, which slowed the dragon's approach somewhat, but it lashed out with its long neck, almost catching Yurk in its huge jaws.
As it approached, the dragon cried out, a strange sound that wasn't exactly a roar – rather it sounded to the heroes like a call – and as it drew closer to the stairs the cry became more insistent; then urgen. The four ﬂed up the stairs, Yurk had barely made it to the top, when a roar ﬁlled with rage and hatred shook the cavern, and a blast of ice shot through the doorway, scorching Yurk and Orsik who stood by the door. They pushed it to, and listened in fear at the rage of the dragon outside. Eventually the sound of crushed rocks was accented by a few stones falling from the ceiling, so they beat a hasty retreat.
Episode 7: The Feydark
Having had enough of dragons, but not wanting to leave the caverns not fully explored, they made their way once again southwards. They found and explored a narrow way they'd passed before. It opened into a room with a raised, level, dusty ﬂoor, free of fungus. Yurk stepped forward into the room and immediately an acidic net dropped over him. He struggled to pull it oﬀ before it burned him too severely, and chastised, moved much more cautiously into the chamber.
They discovered a chest nestled in one corner, which – after much careful inspection by Maluzz – was deemed to be free of traps. Maluzz picked the lock and discovered within a large bastard sword, a cloak, and some gold and jewels. He bound his scimitars to his pack, and strapped the sword to his belt. Then the four settled down for a long rest.
After some hours had passed, when Yurk and Orsik had regained their strength, they emerged from their safe chamber and explored another odd cleft they had seen earlier. Alastair faintly sensed some arcane forces at work on the bare wall, and when he put his hand against it and channeled his powers, the wall faded away and more fungus-lined cavern was revealed before him.
The four stepped lightly into the new cavern, and Alastair's Eladrin heritage sparked. “This is the feywild” he said.“No, this is the feydark” Maluzz whispered harshly.
Determining that this was where the fungus behind them had come from, they decided to explore deeper. A little way along a large chamber opened to their right. It was populated by a small force of sentient fungii, which reﬂexively attacked the intruders. Eventually Alastair's ﬁre quieted the beings, and only regular, non-sentient growths remained, but not before some injuries were sustained by the four. They explored the narrow, twisting way, and found a mysterious wal blocking their way. It blended seamlessly with the cavern walls beside them, but was obviously too smooth and even to be natural. Stymied, they turned back and explored another way.
Around a bend they heard the sound of someone attempting to be stealthy. They leapt around the corner and found a small party of gnome-like people with red caps, who demanded to know who the adventurers were. No answer would be suﬀicient, so the spriggans leaped to attack. Disturbed at the hostility in the place, Alastair summoned great ﬁres that engulfed most of the fey creatures, and Yurk beat down the leader – and would have killed him, had Orsik not taken him hostage. “Who are you, and what is this place?” he demanded. However the spriggan had little to tell; just that this was their temporary lair, and that it wasn't safe to stay in one place too long, not so near the King's Highway.
Eventually Alastair grew weary of the creature's yammering and made as if to silence it, when it bolted – escaping around another twist of the tunnel. Orsik suggested that Maluzz take a peek at this ‘King's Highway’ while they rested, suggesting that he look south rather than north, since the spriggan's talk had included mention of unfriendly giants to the north.
The drow assassin slunk of into the darkness while the half-orc, dwarf, and eladrin settled down in the spriggan's hideout. He found the king's highway, very close to where the others were resting, and scouted along it a little way. It stretched mostly north-south in a pretty straight line; to the north were no obvious features for some distance, but to the south he noticed some small side-caves not unlike the tunnel in which the others lie hid. He didn't explore them too closely, being busy actively avoiding detection from the odd passer-by travelling along the highway.
On returning to the hideout he described what he'd seen. After tending to their injuries and regaining some strength, the four set oﬀ southwards. The broad tunnel ran roughly north-south without any kinks or bends in sight. The stones were broken and worn, smeared along the tunnel, and occasionally great pools of blood and gore informed the heroes that this was indeed the King's Highway, and the King Who Crawls once came this way, many aeons ago. Luminescent fungi clung to the walls and ceiling, but the ﬂoor seemed bereft of life.
Some quarter of a mile along the highway, it passed through a cave – that must have been a bubble in the rock – to the left and right the ﬂoor of the cave was slightly raised above that of the highway. From within the cave a bolt of shadow emerged, and they noticed a drow and its servants lying hid. The ﬁght was going well for the adventurers when a huge crocodile emerged from a pit in the cave and began to attack. They hardly defeated their enemies and withdrew to the depths of the cave to recouperate.
After another half a mile the highway broke into a huge cavern, emerging at ground level in the north-east corner and running straight across the cavern ﬂoor before plunging into the far wall some quarter mile distant. The cavern appeared roughly rectangular, and streatched an immense distance to the west. However most of the ground was buried beneath an underground sea; here in the east was the only level dry ground they could see. The ground to either side of the highway was strewn with boulders, and stalagmites adorned the ﬂoor near the walls. In the southeast they could see a large fungal forest; some of the mushrooms appearing as tall as trees. Immediately in fron of them a clear path lead oﬀ the highway to a gate in a ﬁfteen-foot-high wall set near the wall of the cavern where the sea was nearest.
Orsik recalled something the spriggan had said about some unfriendly-to-him gnomish settlement to the south, and assumed that this must be it. He mentioned it to the others, and they agreed to go explore. They were challenged at the gate by a voice from near the top of the wall. After some discussion and lots of diplomatic assurance from Alastair, the gate was opened and they were permitted to enter. They found themselves in a narrow corridor, with a second, higher wall in front of them. To the right, against the cavern wall, they saw small fortiﬁed building – a guard-house.
They were ushered around the curve of the corridor – away from the guard-house – bye an armed gnome. He took them to a second, inner gate, and let them through. Within was a small village of some twenty buildings; the largest being set back against the cliﬀ-face. This, they were instructed, was the chief's hut, and they would have to present themselves there if they were to be allowed to remain in the village – which was apparently named Ohl.
They introduced themselves to the chief, Garmalkin, and various senior and elderly gnomes, and described their adventures. They also oﬀered some gold as a gift to the village – the bribe in particular causing more obvious friendliness from the gnomes. Having been welcomed to the village, the four heroes asked about any interesting happenings, and an old, haggard gnome-woman stepped up. She was introduced as Elwig, the village witch-woman, and she described dramatically that the caverns were quaking and the deep stone beneath them shivered and great portents were felt all along the highway. Something very bad was happening, she told them.
Not well assured, the adventurers left the chief's hut, and sought out a smithy. Alastair oﬀered their magic spear as a trade for a magical longsword, which the smith, Bimpwick, assured him he could make – although it would take a week. Then they found a hut that had bedding to spare and hunkered down for what they assumed was the afternoon and the night.
Episode 8: Angel Flight
In the morning they emerged, and decided to explore the cavern. They headed out through the gate, accompanied by one Dalwick, an adventurous young gnome with an interest in the fungal forest. As they approached the dark ribbon if the King's Highway winding its way through the luminous, boulder-strewn cavern, a familiar shout bellowed out from a boulder, and the hulking grey form of a grimlock sharged out, its club raised above its eyeless head. The gnome shrieked and spun around, apparently judging its changes of escape as the four adventurers reﬂexively dropped into thei accustomed combative stances.
In response to the call, half a dozen other grimlocks emerged from behind various boulders and charged towards the group.
As the ﬁrst grimlock go within a few yards of Yurk, a terrible cry rang out in the cavern; a deafening roar of unmitigated rage that wavered to a shriek of unimaginable agony and back. The grimlock's head snapped around towards the source of the cry – the northern end from which they party had entered the cavern – then it and its allies turned and ﬂed to the south.
The gnome, its bowels reﬂexively emptied at the horrible sound, dropped to the groun, thrashing around and gibbering in abject terror, and the heroes could hear faint wails and cries from the village behind them. The boom of heavy iron-bound doors slamming into placed rolled over them.
Not wanted to ﬁnd out what could cause such a reaction, the heroes grabbed the terriﬁed gnome and dragged him as far as they could to the south, keeping oﬀ the highway. They ducked behind a pair of boulders just before some ﬁgures emerged from the northern tunnel – not easy to make out at the distance, they seemed only slightly larger than men, but they projected an aura of danger that was almost visible. Following them was the unmistakable radiance of a pair of angels, their bright glow casting shadows even at their distance.
The lead ﬁgure let out another terrible shriek, and gestured at the village. Several others charged at the gate and began beating at it with their bare hands, as one of the angels ﬂapped its wings, and lofted over the wall. A sudden jet of ﬂame shot up from behind the walls, and bright ﬂames were soon visible – the village was burning. Suddenly movement caught the heroes's attention; a tiny hidden gate had opened at the far end of the outer wall, and a stream of villagers was ﬂeeing along the narrow beach towards what appeared to be a hole in the cavern wall.
Just as the lead ﬁgure shrieked and gestured at the escapees, the party decided to take the distraction as an opportunity to ﬂee. They ran as fast as they could south, rejoining the highway to help cover the distance quicker. They had almost made it to the tunnel mouth when a piercing, shrill cry rang out. The second angel had spotted them, and was ﬂying towards them as fast as it could.
The heroes pounded along as fast as they could – Yurk in the lead, granted extra swiftness by his enchanted trappings from the mysterious temple beneath Arobel, Orsik behind, encumbered by his heavy armour and short dwarven legs – but as fast as they could travel, the angel was at least twice as fast, eating up the distance with every beat of its immense wings.
After what felt like an age, they burst into another cave, with the angel only a hundred yards behind. In front of them the highway plunged down into the ﬂoor, and to the left a path wound through a massive, dense fungal forest. Alastair desperately summoned a zone of grasping shadows, which hindered the angel's approach just long enough for the four to ﬂee through the forest. Some short way in they ran headlong into the pack of grimlocks, which merely grimaced at the adventurers as they ran past. At the far end of the forest, against the cave wall, they discovered a huge, heavily fortiﬁed door.
All four of them pounded on the door, pleading to be let in. After a few moments the door creaked open and a hoarse voice whispered, “get in! Now!” The heroes bolted through the narrow opening, and the door slammed shut behind them. They sat for a moment in the pitch darkness, until a small light revealed that they were in a long, narrow tunnel between two heavy doors. With them was a single elderly gnome, wearing old battered armour, and bearing the tiny light. He introduced himself as Bunkzig, the gatekeeper, and informed the party that he had broken the strictest regulations by letting them through the gate, espcially in a time such as this.
They didn't have time to oﬀer him any assurances when a terrible wail clamoured outside the door. A horrible sound, like a raging thunderstorm, battered them from the cave. After several minutes it abated, and the ﬁve of them sat shivering in the darkness, barely willing to breathe unless the sound of their breathe reveal them. Eventually – they weren't sure just how long – Bunkzig cracked the door open and peeked out. He shuddered, then pushed the door open further. The four stepped out into the cave. They turned to thank him, but he had already closed the door.
Outside, the fungal forest had been utterly destroyed. Among the fragments of fungus and pools of spores were hideous chunks of ﬂesh, some with ragged sections of grey ﬂesh still attached. Bright red blood covered a huge area, sometimes ﬁnely speckled like a mist, in other places deeply pooled in muddy mires.
Full of revulsion, the four sickened adventurers cautiously made their way back towards the highway, and – scanning both ways to check that it was clear – slunk down the tunnel that plunged into the cave ﬂoor. At the bottom of the slope was another cave, where the highway levels out once more. At the far side of the cave the tunnel narrowed, and stepping through the heroes felt a change in the atmosphere. Where before everything – event the highway itself – had had a sort of vitality, a richness of life no matter how corrupted, here everything felt dead. The luminescent glow to which they'd become accustomed was no more. Nothing was visible before them except dead rock.
A little way along this dismal tunnel, they found an ancient lava ﬂow which had crossed the highway in ages past. It rose in a roughly straight line to their left, while the highway sloped gradually downwards in front of them. Having had enough of opressive depth, they decided unanimously to explore the lava ﬂow and see where it lead. For almost a day they climbed the slowly narrowing way, until eventually they emerged in a small cave.
Orsik and Maluzz shared a glance, then stepped a bit further into the cave. “I thought so!” Orsik exclaimed, “We've been here before!”“Indeed,” Maluzz spoke drily, “This is where Ran fell.”
The others caught up, and recognised the place where they had ﬁrst encountered the grimlocks. They climbed the small ledge up to the site of their battle only two weeks before, then made their way back through the vageuly familiar tunnels. Expecting to ﬁnd the shaft that lead up to the drider's chamber under Arobel, instead they found a gaping chasm, several hundred yards across, sheer-sided, open to the sky above and descending into darkness below.
“What has become of Arobel?” Alastair asked rhetorically. Yurk shrugged, and said, “The sun is setting, we should ﬁnd a place to sleep and explore in the morning.” They made their way back and set up camp in a place where the tunnel narrowed and made a few tight bends.
Yurk woke with a start. Alastair was alert, and gestured for silence. Suddenly Maluzz emerged from a tunnel and whispered, “We are not alone. There are quaggoths ahead, they have picked up our scent.”
They roused Orsik, then crept forward. Suddenly a cat-like humanoid reared up in front of them. They attacked immediately, Alastair making great use of the narrow tunnels to set impassable ﬁres around his enemies. He saw a giant rust monster with oddly-shaped antanne, so hurled a ﬁreball at it. However, rather than just burning the creature, he felt some magical bond between himself and it, and he felt his magic being leached through his sword. Enraged, he hurled another spell at the insectoid, and his sword suddenly crumbled to powdery rust; the monster had leached its essence through the magical link, and Alastair's sword was ruined. Without an implement, his spells felt undirected and unempowered. However he continued to hurl everything he knew at his enemies, until they were forced to ﬂee. The heroes hunted them through a twisty maze of tunnels, but soon the surviving felines' familiarity with the place proved too much of an advantage and they escaped.
Orsik lead them in the direction he believed the great new chasm to be, noting that they had angled gradually upwards while chasing the quaggoths. Soon they emerged into blinding daylight, just a few yards below the lip of the chasm, where the slope was shallow enough for them to climb. As they approached the top they realised the full signiﬁcance of what they could see. Fully fourth ﬁfths of the city of Arobel was now a gaping hole – ruined walls and buildings lined the lip, and not a living thing was in sight. A dusty pall hung in the air over the city.
Episode 9: Sunken Arobel
They wandered the abandoned streets, seeing nothing but packs of dogs for several minutes. Then, near the one section of city wall that remained, they found a gathering of survivors. They found a priest named Brother Gomas who was tending the wounded and comforting the survivors. He told the adventurers that he had been out of the temple two nights ago, wandering around the northern section of the city, aiding the homeless, when a great tremor shook the entire city. An immense cloud of dust arose and blocked out the stars and moon, and a sound of unimaginable loudness beat everyone to the ground. When he had come to his senses and was able to stand once more, he staggered south, and discovered the hole where the city should have been. Since then he had been doing what he could to tend to the people, but had no idea who was in charge.
Yurk and Alastair held a muted conversation between themselves, then apparently reached a decision. Yurk climbed onto a cart and called out in his loudest voice, “People of Arobel! Your fair city is lost. While I share your sadness, I also foresee a greater sadness to come, if you do not hearken to me now! Without your city and its high walls, and your fair prince and his guards, you are vulnerable. If they have not already, the hobgoblins in the mountains will soon learn of your vulnerability and they will fall upon you. Then what remnant of the city survives will be lost forever! We must gather every person, man, woman and child, and those necessities without which we cannot survive, and we must ﬂee this city! Today! I will set out from the north gate in one hour; any who would join me must be ready by then!”
He jumped down from his cart and stalked oﬀ through the crowd, while a muttering spread behind him. One hour later the four heroes stood at the gate, and were joined by just about every survivor in the city. A few guardsmen, some city guards who had been on the north gate and some royal guards who had been away from the guardhouse, were among them, and helped arrange the muster. They set out almost half an hour later, making their way west, over the river and around the ruins of the city, eventually rejoining the south road.
They made their way slowly, camping as the sun began to set, heading out again after breakfast. Towards dusk on the second day Maluzz – who had been scouting ahead – cried out, “Hobgoblins!” just has three of the creatures emerged from a treed knoll and stepped into the road. Yurk immediately called to the refugees, herding them south along the road as quickly as he could, while the other three formed up to engage the hobgoblins.
Alastair crested a saddle in the knoll and saw a vast host arrayed before him. He summoned a massive pillar of ﬁre in their midst and roasted several immediately. Then proper battle ensued, and while many hobgoblins were killed, the heroes were worn down by the sheer numbers as well as their simple but eﬀective tactics. When the ﬁght seemed hopeless, a longbow shaft ﬂew past Alastair and skewered the hobgblin that had been towering over him. Two men from the city had run up, one armed with a longbow, the other with a sword. They leapt into the fray, and while it wasn't much, it was enough to turn the tide of battle. Alastair was overcome and fell at the feet of the swordman, who guarded his unconscious form, while all the remaining hobgoblins bar one – the commander – were defeated, and the one ﬂed.
The swordman, Lart, and the bowman, Timoty, were keen to rejoin their friends in the caravan, so the six of them set oﬀ south. Just as the sun dropped behind the mountains, a most unwelcome ﬁgure stepped out from behind a tree. A troll, bearing a huge club, came roaring towards them. Already exhausted, the six combatants prepared to engage the troll, just as its two friends emerged to join it. The ﬁght was protracted, and the heroes were beaten down quite hardly, but eventually they triumphed, defeating the trolls. Then they cast themselves down where they stood and slept.
They woke some time before dawn, and could see smoke from the refugees' ﬁres not two miles distant. They hurried along and found them just before breakfast. After breaking camp and heading on for half a day, they spotted a dust cloud ahead. Eventually it resolved itself to a troop of horses, maybe ﬁfty men, in armour and bearing a pennant. Alastair recognised it as the banner of Cormyr City. Eventually the leader – Lord Nesby Goldhelm – trotted up to them and asked, “Who are you, and what are you doing on the road with such a large, rag-tag following?”
On hearing their descriptions of the state of Arobel, and of having been in the underdark, Lord Nesby's eyes widened, and he suddenly spoke, “You.. an orc and drow in your party; you are the ones who came bearing tokens and rumours of ... Illithids, and Driders, and terrors out of legend walking the streets. You bewitched the Prince and earned his trust. You lead the hobgoblins through the sewers into Arobel! And now we hear rumour that the city of Arobel, and the beloved Prince Félipe, have been taken down into the darkness below; and here you are, in the midst of things! You are under arrest. Surrender your weapons and my men will escort you to receive the King's justice.”
Immensely aﬀronted, but deﬁnitely outnumbered, the four adventurers reluctantly handed over their weapons. In Maluzz's case, this took some time. Then ten of the ﬁfty riders wheeled out of line and rode escort for the refugees; four of them walking their horses beside the prisoners.
The next morning, not long after heading out, a sudden commotion caused a halt in the march. One of the lead horses was knocked to the ground, and a huge grey shadow erupted from the earth, tearing both horse and rider, before vanishing beneath the churned soil once more. Maluzz ran to the horseman who was holding their weapons, and demanded his bastard sword. Suddenly a runnel appeared, moving towards Alastair and Orsik and their guards. When the mound at its head passed beneath their feet, one of the Alastair was knocked to the ground. Just then the shadow leapt up out of the ground again; a huge beast, larger than a horse, with a pointed snout and huge claws, and great jaws lined with sharp teeth.
The horseman handed Maluzz his sword, and the assassin moved in to attack the landshark. One of the horsemen had been dismounted when his beast had taken fright, and he moved cautiously towards the landshark, while two of his mounted comrades charged it with lances. After some amount of ﬁghting, and the death of another horseman, the creature was killed. Thereupon the leader of the horsemen declared that the heroes were free to carry their weapons, and could walk withou guards, provided that they attended upon the king as soon as they could. They gladly retrieved their weapons, and continued to march towards Cormyr City.
They reached the city in the afternoon of the next day, and immediately made their way to the King's court. There they presented themselves and described all their doings since last they'd been there – glossing over some details, such as the room full of gold in the kobold fortress – and the King thanked them a second time. He presented the four of them with brooches bearing his personal emblem, declaring that these tokens would mark them as Friends of the Kingdom and above suspicion in their future dealings.
Then the King asked them what they intended next. Yurk spoke up, saying that, if the King permitted it, he would like to lead as many of the refugees as were willing to go, back to Duvik's Pass. The King assented to this, and Yurk went out immediately to see to the refugees. The other three decided that they'd had enough of wandering in the underdark for now, so decided to explore the lands to the ast of the great lake, slowly making their way back to Duvik's Pass. To this the King also assented, but he warned them that the wild lands between the lake and the mountains were very dangerous. They took his warnings on board, but decided to go exploring nonetheless.
The four spent a further few days in the city, spending some of their gold on a new sword of Alastair and a new hornéd helmet forOrsik; then Yurk said his farewells and headed oﬀ with his new people, to repopulate the village in the mountains. Alastair, Orsik and Maluzz strolled out the eastern gate and wandered for a few days, through the two major towns and couple of villages, before they decided to strike north.
Episode 10: The Temple of Iwan-Emuan
In the foothills of the southern edge of the mountain range, the adventurers came across a huge stone door set in a cliﬀ face. Feeling adventurous, they pushed it open and decided to head inside. They saw a few dusty skeletons laying about, which they decided to study. As soon as two of them had stepped half way into the rectangular room, the skeletons animated, standing up and attacking the adventurers. Two of the skeletons were dispatched with relative ease, but the third on being injured exploded in a cloud of darkness, and Alastair, being behind it and suddenly in the dark, tumbled down a spiral ﬂight of stairs. By the time he made it back up, Maluzz had ﬁnished oﬀ the skeleton, so all three headed down the stairs.
At the foot of the stairs was a closed door, which opened onto an open courtyard of natural stone. A man-made channel of water crossed from left to right, and a bridge spanned the stream. The far wall was also man-made, and held a large iron door. Several more skeletons were scattered about the courtyard. Alastair summoned his mage hand and attempted to disturb the skeleton near the bridge, when it and its friends all stood up and moved to attack the adventurers. The narrow doorway proved a great advantage, and the skeletons were destroyed one by one. One, when ﬁrst animated, had turned invisible, and suddenly reappeared beside Orsik. It grabbed hold of his shoulder and began attempting to extract the marrow from his bones. Orsik managed to throw it oﬀ, but it vanished again. When all the visible skeletons were defeated, the heroes emerged from the doorway, and the skeleton rematerialised right behind Maluzz. He destroyed it with his bastard sword, and then they noticed one more skeleton that had been hidden by the angle of the doorway. When they attacked it, it merged into the stone wall and shifted away, vanishing through the wall in front of them.
They pulled open the doors, and inside was a broad hallway, bending around to their left. That way a catwalk spanned the hallway, with a ﬂight of stairs leading up to it. Several skeletons were already animated within, and larched towards the doorway. Alastair summoned a wall of ﬁre right inside the doorway, which the skeletons disregarded to their peril. Eventually most of them were burnt up, and those that weren't were easy enough to ﬁght oﬀ.
Around the corner the hallway was split by a wall-to-wall pit, ﬁlled to a level some ﬁve feet below the top with powerful acid. Maluzz noticed a strange rune graven in a ﬂoor tile, like a crescent moon with a stroke drawn through it. Eventually they realised it was pointing at the wall, and they spotted a small hold, an inch across, some ten feed oﬀ the ground. Alastair used his mage hand to pick up an arrow, and poked it into the hole.
A loud clank echoed above them, and a few ﬂakes of dust ﬂoated down. Suddenly there was a snapping sound, and a heavy stone slab fell down, acting as a bridge across the acid. Four great iron chains lead from the corners of the slab up into the darkness, but one was unravelling, and it ﬂopped into the acid and dissolved.
Alastair gingerly stepped across the bridge, followed by Maluzz, then Orsik. On the other side they found a small chamber containing a winch, which they worked out was a way to raise the bridge again. They crossed back over the acid, and climbed the stairs, crossing the catwalk, and slept in the room beyond.
In the morning the stone bridge still lay across the acid, so they crossed it. They then headed right, and found themselves in a huge square shaft some eighty feet across, on a path descending in a spiral around the outer wall. At the ﬁrst corner was a small ledge, where on a low plinth stood a broken statue of a man in armour. They continued down counter-clockwise, to a second ledge where, just as Orsik attempted to pass a second, undamaged statue, it came to life and started attacking them with its broadsword. Maluzz and Orsik eventually broke the statue, and tumbled some of the signiﬁcant pieces oﬀ the ledge – they splashed below, and an acrid smell wafted up to them.
As they continued down they spotted a third ledge, with another unbroken statue. Orsik lowered his horned helmet and charged, striking the statue a solid blow and stunning himself as it rocked slightly. Not believing it to be inanimate, he then spent several minutes hammering the sword out of its stony grip, and tossing it into the acid below.
Down one more decline they found themselves facing a doorway. It opened inward to a hallway running away to their left. Inside were two skeletons, standing and moving towards them. One, when damaged, summoned a burst of darkness, from within which the other lashed out as Alastair, encasing him in a ﬁne, translucent layer of stone. Alastair teleported out of his restraint, and Orsik – backing out of the shadow – accidentally crushed the glassy Alastair ﬁgure. They destroyed the skeletons without too much hassle, and follow the hallway down around a right corner, to yet another door. Peeking through, Maluzz saw a rectangular room with another, smaller, acid pit in the middle, and a permanent bridge over it. He also saw two skeletons. He and Orsik attacked the nearest, while the further one started shooting at them with a short bow.
These skeletons were also defeated in short order – although not before summoning more pools of darkness through which only Maluzz could see. At the far end of the chamber, a narrow corridor bent around, emerging at a T-intersection, the right way of which was blocked by a door with no discernable lock or keyhole. On the ﬂoor to the left was a chevron-shaped rune etched into the ﬂoor, the point facing away from them.
They followed the corridor in the direction ofthe chevron, bending in a long U-turn left then right. Maluzz in the lead felt a slight shift under his foot, then a ﬂetchette stung his arm. He continued quickly, and Orsik behind him grunted when another ﬂetchette struck him. “There's a ﬂagstone here that goes down when you step on it” he said, and crouched just before somethign went plink into the wall behind him.
Around the corner Maluzz discovered another skeleton, and began to attack it, as a second and then a third nail plinked into the wall above Orsik's head. As Maluzz started to damage the skeleton, it too erupted in a cloud of darkness, engulﬁng Orsik, and just then a stony skeleton emerged from the wall. Unseeing, Orsik backed out of the shadow, and another bony ﬁst lashed out, again encasing Alastair in stone. Eventually, with some lucky swings in the dark by Alastair and Orsik, and thanks to Maluzz's darkvision, the skeletons – three of them by this time – were defeated, and the shadowy zone faded.
They crept under the ﬂetchette trap and made their way round another corridor, into what was apparently a prison room. They saw a broken table facing three cells. One cell was locked, and the skeleton on the ﬂoor ithin was broken and scattered, but the other two cells were open and one contained a skeleton. Orsik strode up and pushed open the bars just as the skeleton stood up. Almost wearily, they smashed it to pieces.
Continuing through the prison room they found another corridor, with a button in an alcove at one end. When they pressed it, a stony grating noise sounded in the distance. As they went that way they found that they'd done a loop, and the door with no locks was myseteriously open. Just this side of the door, to the left, was a room with a prominently marked ﬂagstone switch in the ﬂoor in front of a barred doorway, and a skeleton. They attacked the skeleton, and just as it was destroyed Orsik pushed it onto the switch. As soon as he did, a secret door opened opposite the barred doorway, and a four-armed, four-scimitar-wielding skeleton emerged. Orsik blocked it in a narrow doorway and slowly smashed it down, blocking its many blows with his shield. Unknowingly he stepped on a hidden ﬂoor switch, and the barred doorway behind him opened.
After catching their breath for a moment, Orsik lead the way through the arched doorway, down a short flight of stairs, and around a corner. At the bottom he saw a cathedral, with a high arched ceiling supported by two rows of pillars leading towards a broken and crumbled altar. Two flaming torches stood behind the altar, throwing towards him the shadows of the two large skeletons in the room.
The nearest skeleton was draped in the tattered, rotted remains of a robe and had what appeared to be some sort of hat on its skull. The further skeleton, standing by the altar, wore a suit of armour and wielded a large staff; most noticeable, however, were its three skulls, each crested with a crown of untarnished gold.
As Orsik entered the cathedral, two more four-armed, four-scimitar-wielding skeletons emerged from the shadowy corners behind the door. Alastair immediately cast a spell of necrotic resistance over his friends, and Orsik and Maluzz engaged them. Then Alastair summoned a wall of fire that divided the cathedral across the middle, isolating the more threatening skeletons. The scimitar-wielders were eventually destroyed, although not before Maluzz suffered several nasty cuts.
Alastair let his wall of fire subside, and the three heroes focussed their attacks on the hat-wearer. Several times it attacked their memories, causing them to temporarily forget how to perform spells and attacks, however eventually it was overcome and destroyed. Then they focussed all their attacks on the remaining skeleton. Several times the staff flared, and icy blasts threw the heroes back; however, inevitably blows were landed, and one of the skulls was destroyed. Then the skull lord attempted to smash Orsik with its staff, but although the blow landed, Orsik felt the necrotic energy of the attack crackle on the arcane shielding provided by Alastair, and he remained unharmed. Heartened, the adventurers stepped up their attacks, eventually destroying a second skull. Enraged, the skeleton attempted to cast of bolt of pure necrotic death at Alastair, but in lowering his guard, the three hroes simultaneously attacked with their melee weapons, destroying the final skull.
As the armoured body fell to the ground, the staff slowly tumbled from its grasp. When the head of the staff struck the ground it exploded, causing a deafening shockwave to smash its way through the keep. Some small rocks fell from the cathedral roof, and the heroes heard distant rumblings from above them. Unconcerned, Maluzz began to study the altar, while Alastair stooped to pick up the fallen crowns. As soon as he grabbed the larger middle crown, an intense burning pain engulfed the hand and he shrieked in agony. By the time the others had rushed to his side, all the flesh had been burned away from his right hand, leaving exposed bones. In shock, Alastair used his sword – in his left hand – to scoop up the crowns, and gathered them into his pack. Then a falling rock struck Orsik on the head, dazing him. They realised that the keep was collapsing, and turned to leave.
As they ran, the cascade of stones increased, Alastair dodged lightly between them, but remained in sight of his friends. Orsik, stunned by several nasty blows, had trouble keeping up; and soon Maluzz had run off ahead. They ran on, and a rain of stones fell amongst them.
Maluzz, focussing on running more than dodging, suffered many hard blows, and was quite hurt by the time he made it to the main level of the keep. Fortunately for the heroes, the stone gangplank remained intact over the acid pit, although it had developed a few large cracks. They ran across it heedless, barely pausing in the open-aired courtyard, before pounding up the spiral staircase and back out into the valley beyond. Once they were a safe distance from the cliff, they threw themselves down on the ground, just as a deep rumbling sounded and a cloud of dust erupted from the doorway, telling them they had escaped just in time.
After sleeping off their adventure, the three woke were they had lain – apparently the rumour of the keep was enough to keep would-be molesters at bay. Waking, Orsik studied Alastair's maimed hand, and saw that the wound, while gruesome, was clean and free of infection. In fact the edges of living flesh were entirely healed. Alastair realised he could still move his skeletal fingers, and his arcane sight could barely detect a faint outline where his flesh had been – as though the arcane force was acting to replace flesh and muscle. Experimentally, Maluzz poked a dagger between the bones of the hand, and it passed through without resistance. Alastair, sensing the necromantic power radiating from his hand, tested it gingerly, but discovered no obvious effects caused by its touch.
Episode 11: The Lost Shrine
They set out once more, travelling north along the foothills of the mountains. Towards the later part of the afternoon Alastair suddenly stopped and signaled the others to be still. He gestured through a copse of ancient yews and birch trees, and the others quickly saw the stone stair and its huge walls. At the top of the stair, gormless and unattentive, stood a pair of ogres; unusual for their species, they had pieced together various pieces of iron and leather as crude armour. Maluzz silently circled around to the right, angling towards some raised terraces or steps he could discern rising beside the high walls as they backed into the mountain face. He came across a cleft in the ground, overshadowed by a fallen birch log. At the deepest part of the cleft – some ten feet below the raised ground around – lounged another ogre, this time in the usual hide coverings. Maluzz crept with all his stealth, and leapt down on his foe and drove his bastard sword down with great might. Taken utterly at unawares, the ogre fell dead before it could even utter a cry.
Heartened, Alastair purposed to catch the attention of the iron-bound ogres at the top of the stair, so stepped out before them. Instantly they charged down towards him, lashing at him with their great mauls. Instinctively Alastair reached up and attempted to grasp the throat of the nearest ogre with his deformed hand; dark tendrils of eldritch energy curled from his fingers towards it, but the creature beat him down and escaped his grasp. Somewhat overcome by the ferocity of their attack, he attempted to fall back towards Maluzz, while Orsik strode forth to attempt to draw their wrath.
Many blows were exchanged, but despite Orsik's intervention, the ogres continued to strike out at Alastair, their long arms allowing them to swing thir mauls over Orsik's head. Again Alastair gestured with his skeletal hand, and a beam of dark energy lanced forth, narrowly missing an ogre. Alerted by the sound of battle, several other ogres suddenly appeared, leaping down the terraces towards them. Alastair summoned a region of darkness, filled with grasping shadows, which slowed the rush of the ogres; one leapt to the top of the wall and attempted to circumvent the battle, thus coming upon them from behind. Maluzz slung a noose of pure shadow around the ogre's neck and pulled with all his might, dragging it to the edge of the wall where it collapsed, hanging on with hands and feet, before rolling backwards to a lower level within the stone structure and eventually coming down the stairs the usual way.
Meanwhile Alastair, bloodied and battered, lashed out a third time with his cursed hand, summoning a bolt of eldritch energy that struck one of the ogres full in the throat, strangling it. However, even as his foe gurgled and grasped at its throat, Alastair screamed in agony as he felt all the flesh below his elbow ignite, burning away to bare bone. Overcome by the pain, he was unable to take any other action for several seconds.
Eventually another ogre was killed, and the party pressed their attack; but Alastair overstepped his mark, drawing the ire of too many foes, and before anyone realised what had happened, he was beaten down, bleeding to death on the ground. Orsik attacked the ogres, summoning the wrath of his god; and the divine power flowed from him into Alastair, reviving the fallen wizard a little. Soon all five ogres were destroyed before the steps of stone, and the three heroes threw themselves down where the stood, and attempted to rest.
However barely a minute had passed, when another ogre appeared at the top of the stairs. Seeing the three adventurers below, it roared and hurled a javelin at them and charged with its crude club raised. A second ogre appeared, and likewise threw a javelin and charged down the stairs, followed by others, among them a particularly huge ogre wielding a huge flail. Alastair instantly summoned a wall of blazing fire, writhing up the middle of the stairway, engulfing all of the ogres that stood there. They screamed in agony and rage, and slowly attempted to force their way through the arcane fire; two back up to the top of the stairs, the others down to the foot where the heroes stood.
Pressing the attack, Orsik attempted to drive the ogres into the consuming flames; Maluzz summoned the terror of the deepest shadows and compelled the ogres to flee back to the fire; Alastair summoned an enchantment which dazzled the ogres, forcing them to linger in the terrible inferno. However some managed to break free of the flames, even that great warhulk, who swung his flail, knocking the wizard to the ground unconscious and dying yet again. Maluzz using his shadow to fence the ogre in, while Orsik stooped to tend his fallen comrade; and the Eladrin recovered his wits and sat up again before his magic fires fully died down, and he sustained them, burning the ogres further.
Three more times the ogres pushed forth from the flames, and three more times they were driven back. Alastair summoned the dark energy through his skeletal hand again, and strangled his foes, and he felt the power of the attack growing. That plus the fire and the constant assaults from Orsik and Maluzz eventually overcame the ogres, and all were accounted for but the two that had fled to the top of the stairs.
Making their way cautiously up the crackling stone, the party found themselves in an open, bowl-shaped structure of stone, with a wide stair leading down before them, and a narrow stair leading up again on the further side. To their left the face of the mountain rose up above the wall in an impassably steep slope, and before them stood a sheer cliff. At the top of the stair, dug into the cliff, stood a shallow cave, partly sheltered by the outer wall of the structure.
Hidden behind the lip of the bowl stood one of the ogres, which swung wildly at them with its club, before they could react. However its swing went wide, and the three attacked; Alastair again summoned the crackling energy, while Orsik hammered at the creature and Maluzz cleft it with his bastard sword; and it was soon overcome.
They explored further, and within the cave they discovered many bones and ruined gear, but among it all they found a platinum ring set with precious gems, and three hundred gold pieces. Just as Maluzz bent to take the precious loot, a roar shook them, and the last ogre lept over the wall, blocking them into the cave. However it had been injured by the fire, and the heroes were heartened by their victories so far, and the creature didn't stand a chance. It fell before them, and the full account of the ogres was now told.
Suddenly Alastair was overcome by a desire to know the extent of the power of the curse that had gripped his forearm, and maybe a desire to wield the power once more, and he summoned the power, directing it at the corpse of the ogre. As it had before, the power grew, and a burning agony overcame him, and the flesh of his arm was burnt away, so that all the bone of his upper arm and some of his shoulder blade was exposed. When he had overcome the shock and the pain, a strange glint flashed in his eyes, and Orsik worried for his friend's soul.
Episode 12: Nets in the Night
As night was drawing near, the three heroes decided to take advantage of their slightly fortified position and camp for the night. They heaved the ogre corpses down the stairs, and Maluzz spent some time setting up a row of stakes in the bowl of the temple, each bearing the severed head of one of the brutes.
While this was going on, Orsik took Alastair aside and attempted to subtlely suggest that he stop messing with evil necromantic powers, and avoid making his arm any worse until they could get it seen to by someone. Alastair had somewhat come to his senses by then, and agreed that the pursuit of arcane knowledge, while a worthy cause, had its limits.
In the dead of the night, maybe 3 hours after midnight, Maluzz and Alastair while meditating in the cave heard an unmistakable sound – a rock rattling on the outer steps and a whispered imprecation against poor masonry. Alastair slipped down the inner stairs, however he too discovered a loose stone, and the voice on the stair issued a hoarse whisper, "Movement!"
Reflexively Alastair summoned an arcane sound source nearby, mimicking the stealthy yap of a hunting fox, hoping to disguise his mistake; meanwhile Maluzz silently rolled onto the top of the outer wall and gently crawled around towards the entrance. His eyes, perfectly attuned to the dark of night, saw a man – definitely human – on the stairs, leaning against the wall listening attentively, and several others moving stealthily in the darkness beyond.
The drow gestured to the wizard, who summoned a small point of light at the very top of the stairs, blinding the human and drow alike, and throwing harsh shadows from the impaled heads of the ogres.
Two men, recovering from the shock of sudden light, ran to the top of the stairs; they carried scourges, nets, spears and bludgeons, but no blades. Orsik awoke in the cave in time to hear a terrible chuckling laugh; he peered through the opening and saw a figure emerge at the top of the stairs, all red with swept-back horns and a long meaty tail, carrying a nine foot glaive; a devil. It saw Maluzz atop the wall and strode to engage him, while men began swarming towards Alastair, casting their nets at him.
Alastair retreated up the stairs, exchanging places with Orsik, who charged into the bowl and attempted to engage as many foes as possible. The men seemed reluctant to actually harm Alastair, preferring to entangle him in their nets and bind his legs with their whips; however the devil was more free with its aggression, attacking both Orsik and Maluzz vigorously with its great blade and terrible claws.
Gradually the concerted efforts of Orsik and Maluzz wore the devil down, but its attacks only grew more vigorous as it became more bloodied. Eventually some of the men, having apparently underrated the heroe's assertive defenses, began to flag; they turned more and more to violent and harmful attacks, but it was too late. When the first man fell it opened a weakness, and soon others fell around him. When the devil was finally overborne, only two men remained standing, both attacking Alastair on the far side of the structure. As Orsik and Maluzz ran to his aid they saw a small figure – a goblin – emerge at the top of the stairs, and it casually leaned against the wall, watching the fight.
Outnumbered and afraid, one of the men broke free of the melee and ran towards the far wall, away from the cliff. His mate shouted at him, calling him a coward, while Maluzz darted over to block his retreat. As the man ran, the goblin idly raised its hand crossbow and, barely watching what it was doing, fired a bolt, and the man plunged forward and slid to the foot of the wall, dead.
Maluzz turned back to face the others as the last man, caught between Alastair's blade and Orsik's hammer, was struck down. Immediately the goblin tucked away its crossbow and raised its hand, palm outwards. "Before anything else, tell me what gods you serve," it spoke in clear common.
"Pelor," said Orsik proudly; but Maluzz and Alastair exchanged a glance. "Er.. none, really" the wizard mumbled weakly, while Maluzz croaked, "The Raven Queen, I suppose."
The goblin simply nodded, and idly stroked the leather collar over its shoulders – it was embossed with the pattern of a spider's web. Alastair and Maluzz frowned and nodded, but Orsik, oblivious, asked bluntly, "Well go on then, who do you serve?"
Alastair sighed, and Maluzz wandered over to have a quiet talk to Orsik, while the Goblin shared a look with the Eladrin. "I have been sent by my goddess to seek you; or if not you, then some very much like you. You have been in the underdark?" it said to Alastair.
Alastair confirmed the rumour, but said little more. The goblin continued, "I have tracked you since you emerged from the sunken city; I lost your trail when you entered the city of men, and have been trying to catch you up ever since."
"You've been to Arobel?" Alastair asked, "Tell me, do you know what happened there?"
The goblin looked the eladrin steadily in the eye for a moment, then spoke, "The King Who Crawls, His reach has grown long. He extended His arm even to the surface of the world, and pulled your prince's city into the underdark."
Maluzz cocked an eyebrow at the news, and Alastair shook his head, then asked, "So what does your goddess want from us?"
"She understands that you defiled one of Her temples and killed some of Her favourites, but She is willing to let these transgression slide, even to reward you, if you help Her defeat the King Who Crawls; stop Him from wholly conquering the underdark which is rightfully Hers, and at the same time protect your beloved surface world from His destructive designs."
Meanwhile Maluzz had, while leaving the talking to Alastair, been busy studying the gear and corpses of the men. He discovered absolutely nothing of value on them, not even a purse or a copper coin between them, but he noticed that each one bore somewhere on their body a tattoo of a centipede.
Alastair exchanged a look with Maluzz, who nodded, then the wizard answered the goblin, "We were reluctant to go back to the underdark, but if what you say is true, and the horrors beneath are attempting to break through to the world above, I suppose we have no choice. We will come with you, and help your goddess, and attempt to defeat the King Who Crawls."
The goblin smiled, "Good. My name is Yaragh. We will set out in the morning; now let us sleep. You could probably use a rest after your little encounter here."
The three heroes settled themselves in the cave, Orsik and Maluzz by the opening, Alastair in the deepst part facing outwards while meditating. Yaragh sat down in the bowl of the temple, amongst the corpses and impaled heads, and was apparently content for the night.