Hole in the Ground

Session the Third

And so, we pick up with the band about to descend a flight of stairs decorated with carvings of Dwarf warriors battling hideous abominations and aberrations in the depths of the earth. Tuvorok recognised the legendary fate of Clan Duergar, from their descent into the underdark to enslavement and eventual freedom from the horror of the Mind Flayers. Barang took a moment to dip his blade in tribute, a mix of sympathy and kindred feeling in his heart for the tragically fallen Dwarves. Tuvorok meanwhile was less sympathetic, although even he admired the craftsmanship depicting a Duergar warrior and his behelmed Kobold companion battling a lightning spewing abomination that decorated the massive doors at the foot of the stairs.

This noted, the party pushed through the ornate doors into a huge pillared hall, lit by massive chandeliers, only for Spellvoc to turn sickly and practically faint! Clearing bile from his gob, the Warmage warned the others that this hall was riddled with chaos, being a wild magic zone! The whole area would react violently and chaotically to magic use, and this effect was playing havoc with the studious spellcaster’s delicate digestive system.

Exploring the halls, the band soon decided to investigate the resounding echoes and signs of life from a vast archway, finding a wide bridge across a deep chasm, and suddenly finding themselves confronted by locals. A pair of wiry gray skinned Dwarves- warriors of Clan Duergar- flanking a red scaled reptilian humanoid, bearing a regal rat skull topped staff, long cape and proud expression, the creature introduced itself with a bow as the loyal servant of Underlord Kazzoth, Seneschal Meepo. And demanded to know whether the assembled party were friend or foe?

A brief conflab ended with the party declaring themselves ‘friend’ as they were curious about what lay in wait for them, and so with a deep bow and toothy smile Meepo led them into the occupied halls of Clan Duergar, explaining as they went that the Underlord ruled over slave pits, a gladiatorial arena and many warriors besides. Despite this, the halls seemed quiet and almost empty, and far less vast than the preening Kobold would have the party believe.

Finally arriving with some small fanfare, the party were brought into a sand floored arena to address Meepo’s boss, a mighty 4’ 2" gray skinned and outlandishly bejewelled Duergar who proclaimed himself Underlord Kazzoth. Looking down upon the group from a rather nice skybox, the Underlord rudely began probing their minds, attempting to read their thoughts- most definitely not cricket, and definitely not the sort of treatment our heroes were about to stand and take.

And so fingers were pointed, rude words shouted and the party decided it was time to take their leave, only for the Underlord to drop the gates and bellow for ‘the beast’ to be released from the pits, scanning the mind of Spellvoc to determine what manner of monster should be sent against the heroes now trapped in his arena.

As the party drew their weapons and shouted threats at Kazzoth, they also spared a moment to point and laugh at Meepo’s sudden panicked realisation that he was trapped alongside them. Only interrupted when a piercing shriek echoed from the walls, and The Beast emerged from within the pits to tear the heroes limb from bloody limb…
As Duergar warriors and guards entered the arena to take in the spectacle of our heroes battling the monster called forth by the Underlord, The Beast revealed itself to be a massive beast, clawed and feathered in a blend of both hawk and lion- a Griffon. Though it was heavily scarred, with it’s wings crudely removed at the shoulder and bearing the brands of a Great Rift riding beast- stolen most likely from the Gold Dwarf kin of Barang! Aramel coo’d to The Beast, seeking to sooth it’s savage breast…to which it responded with a shriek and a furious charge into battle!

Barang stepped forward to shield his companions, meeting the Griffon in a charge of his own, swinging his mighty greatsword in a glorious arc, only to miss wildly and find the heavily muscled talons of the Griffon raking his flesh to the bone even as it’s beak tore into his chest. Barang fell, his last thoughts murderous rage as the savage pit-beast raked it’s leonine claws across his abdomen, it’s beaky maw devouring his delicious Dwarven spleen whole.

A moment of shock delayed the fallen Dwarf’s companions, his sudden violent death shaking them to the core. Tuvorok dropped to his knees bellowing ‘nooooo!’ even as Aramel regained his composure and feathered the Griffon with arrows. The battle was fierce and bloody, Tuvorok beseeching Clangeddin to enchant a spear which he hurled at the laughing Underlord before turning to engage the monster that had torn his friend apart.

Wounded by the spear, the Underlord stumbled and for a single heartbeat he lost composure and revealed his true form. Not a Duergar, but a sickly pale thing with translucent flesh and inhuman eyes wide and black in it’s too smooth face. A cursed and treacherous Doppelganger! The reveal led to consternation among the watching Duergar, several of whom made their way upstairs to confront their supposed commander.

Meanwhile the battle continued, with Aramel dancing between the Griffon’s claws lashing out with twin blades, Tuvorok and Spellvoc calling up spells and the Beast simply refusing to fall, furiously tearing out at any of the companions who came close to it’s claws. As a ruckus erupted upstairs, the Griffon reared up and screeched at the adventurers, seeking to cow them into submission. Refusing to feel even a touch of fear, they stood ready to continue the fight as the Underlord returned to his window, accompanied by several Duergar who now seemed to be holding him under guard. “You have fought well, and it need not be to the death” he called down “Stand down now and we shall call this a victory for the beast, as your comrade has fallen.”

The companions looked at one another and agreed to stand down, seeing no need in further loss of life. Spellvoc vowed silently to slay the Underlord in vengeance for Barang- only for the mind reading Doppelganger to hear his inner thoughts and react with fury “Betrayers! Assassins! Kill that one!” he screamed, urging his Griffon to press the kill. Spellvoc backed away even as Aramel launched an arrow at the Underlord, and Tuvorok swung a mighty blow at the Griffon as it began a charge at his wizardly companion.

Ignoring the Dwarf’s blow, the heavily wounded Griffon leapt into the air and landed claws first in an explosion of gore, screams and wasted dreams that had a moment before been the Warmage, Spellvoc Evoc. Son of the goddess Mystra, sworn to free the bound Elemental Princess and champion of the downtrodden. With a rough shriek the beast pooped out the crushed and mangled head of Barang into the puddle that was formerly an adventurer. And a heartbeat later the murderous beast fell with one of Aramel’s arrows in it’s throat. Still, two of the companions lay dead and mutilated, and sadness fell heavily on the hearts of our remaining heroes.

Tuvorok and Aramel prepared for the Duergar to come at them, only for the audience to cheer their hard won victory, and the warriors flanking the Underlord to march him down to the arena floor, kicking him to the ground at the feet of the companions. Looking around in desperation, the Underlord returned to it’s true form, pale and clammy looking it begged for mercy from the surrounding Duergar, and the two heroes. The sobbing pleas continued even as it was dragged away for ‘questioning’ by the guards, though not before they cheerfully offered Tuvorok a free shot to the creature’s gut.

As the events of the last few chaotic minutes settled in, Aramel and Tuvorok were introduced to the newly chosen Underlord Cask, proven not to be a filthy Doppelganger but a true gray skinned, white bearded Duergar just as Laduguer and the Nine Lords of the Pit intended. Cask offered a continued truce, placing the blame for the deaths of Spellvoc and Barang at the feet of the Doppelganger and offering compensation in the form of precious gems.

Taking up Cask’s offer of healing and rest, though soon changing their minds about the former when introduced to the giggling, boogly eyed form of Dr Fingers, Derrro surgeon extraordinaire, the two remaining companions spent a short while discussing their plans and treating with Cask. They learned that the Duergar had been whittled down from almost a hundred to a mere dozen warriors by the scheming of the Doppelganger over several months, events previously thought to have been misfortune were now believed to be the purposeful schemes of a shadowy enemy.

Cask and his warriors began planning an exodus into the Underdark, where they could face a worthy foe and at least die well. Their slaves working the mines would be released, and the keys to the fortress halls given to Tuvorok. This turn of events being neither suspicious nor overly convenient in the slightest, and Duergar being known for their sense of honour and kinship with surface Dwarves, the priest accepted happily.

Aramel took a moment to mount Barang’s greatsword above the entrance to the arena, a fitting tribute to his Dwarf friend, and then he and Tuvorok made the journey back to Shadowdale. Cask cemented his alliance with the companions by providing a group of Kobold porters to help carry the bodies, and warned them of the Dragon lurking close by, a young wyrm but still dangerous. En route to the surface the Kobolds pondered out loud why the companions would insist on using the most awkward entry to the dungeon complex, claiming that there were multiple such entrances scattered around the dale.

For now though, such matters were not of import to Aramel and Tuvorok. They had funerals to arrange, and fresh meat to recruit.
Back in town, the funerals were arranged with the local temple of the luck goddess Tymora- the priestess even offering a discount for the heroes who saved so many people from the dungeons.

Poor Jhaele was saddened to hear of Barang’s demise and nobly spilled a flagon for his drinking pal, while Lord Mourngrym sent his official sympathies.

The double funeral was a quiet affair, but noted by many as ‘a bit nice really, all things considered. Certainly better than just being left in a ditch’ and the wake thrown at the Festhall of Tymora left most of Shadowdale village hungover the next morning.

Not that our bold adventurers had time to spare for hangovers nor for further mourning, what with a big dirty hole in the ground still in need of exploring. Further vows were taken to make the wizard Tybor pay for his evils, as being an evil dungeon building wizard leaves him to blame for any and all deaths and dooms met within those halls. These vows taken in the pub drew the attention of a square jawed looking fellow, who soon introduced himself as a knight of Cormyr and paladin of Mystra, who had himself taken holy vows to bring the villainous Tybor to justice for many crimes committed over the border in the Forest Kingdom.

With no further recruits appearing over the horizon, the newly formed trio appended their charter and decided to poke around the grimly named Old Skull Hill to see if any of the entrances to Tybor’s Dungeon lay there. And indeed they did, finding an ancient rotted trapdoor in the ruins of a forgotten building which led into the earth. Tuvorok courageously foiled a cunning trap by using the secret Dwarven arts of ‘blundering through some magical runes and ignoring the effects’ which seemed to work well enough.

Following a spiralling stone stairwell into the darkness, the three delvers found a statue of the wizard Tybor bearing a mocking rhyme and coin slot of sorts in it’s outstretched hand. ‘A gift for you host/Lest you descent be swifter than most’ read the rhyme, leading the paladin to stand firm before the statue and demand Tybor reveal himself for arrest and deportation to Cormyr where he would stand trial. Tuvorok meanwhile engaged in futile vandalism of the statue briefly, before losing interest and wandering off.

Ignoring the continuing stairs, the group explored the halls, soon finding that they had found an entrance into the upper halls- finding their way to the Stone Face, orc bedroom and other familiar chambers. The Stone Face was quite sad to hear of Spellvoc’s demise, and even moreso to hear that her name was still a mystery.

The group pressed on, discovering a room with a box in it. Such epic adventure as would surely one day be the subject of song. The box bearing a note reading ‘Do Not Open’, our heroes immediately set about opening it up. Of course they had common sense to search for mechanisms and traps first, swiftly finding and disarming a cunning trap designed to seal them in the room to starve. Within the box itself they discovered a magical blade – a scimitar, it’s hilt resembling a coy carp and it’s scabbard formed of warm blue crystal- and a purse of moneys. Aramel gladly took the sword, the scimitar being his favoured blade, and this one bearing signs of Elven manufacture.

Pressing on, the companions ventured through eerily silent chambers, until they entered a hall decorated with horrific images and foul statues of the demon lords of the Abyss! A chapel of sorts, the hall bore offering bowls containing things best not spoken of, and a lingering sense of evil. When the paladin reached out with divinely enriched sense to perceive this evil feeling he was struck by an insidious trap- a series of mental images showing the foul rituals and bizarre practices that had taken place in this room. Images clearly identifying the wizard Tybor as not only master of the place, but also as a priest of the demon lord of chaos, Demogorgon!

While the paladin recovered, Aramel kept clear of the room and Tuvorok did what he does best. He poked around and interfered with stuff. His bold sniffing about was rewarded with the discovery of a hidden panel behind a statue of the mandrill (or baboon?) headed Demogorgon, within which lay a cloth wrapped tome and a glowing gemstone of considerable size- perhaps the soul gem containing the bound spirits of the villagers? The paladin warned Tuvorok to be wary of the book, a skin bound tome of evil aspect, perhaps the legendary Book of Vile Darkness? Or maybe a cheap knock off? Either way it looked evil.

Swiftly heading back to the surface and the temple of Lathander, our heroes met with Dawnlord Munro, head priest of the sun god who had been tending the unfortunate villagers rescued from Tybor’s dungeon.

And so with companions lost and a new ally found, the sun set as Tuvorok and Munro began their investigation into how best to use the book and gemstone to hopefully restore the stolen souls of the poor villagers.

And that was that session, with multiple dungeon forays, two funerals and a new PC. With no game for two weeks due to work stuff, we’ll return to see what happens to the villagers, just who is joining the party when old friend Jason comes back to the group and just what that damn paladin’s name is. Maybe when he’s named I might capitalise his class?

So that’s it from this week’s instalment of fishing for compliments adventures, until next time.

Same axe time! Same axe channel!

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PeteWhalley

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