The death of Rolen and Jiantou. Alistair’s fight with the ancient green dragon. The gulo worshiping the resurrected Rolen. The tunnel. The endless tunnels. The Underdark. The cave-in. The darkness.
Sorrow woke to find himself manacled, stripped of his belongings, and thrust into a Drow prison. Vigo was nowhere to be found and the absence of his father’s sword and amulet of Helm was crushing. As he looked around the room he recognized several of the faces, though they seemed to be familiar from dreams. The reality was that Sorrow had been found unconscious by a Drow patrol following a cave-in in one of the countless tunnels within the Underdark. He’d drifted in and out of consciousness for three days, believing his fellow prisoners were present only in his dreams.
On the third day the grogginess of the blows he took in the cave-in disappeared and he became aware of his present circumstances. Among him were prisoners from all races, many he’d never seen before. A proud elf was meditating in one corner, several creatures of the Underdark were ignoring the races from the surface world. A stoic human stood near a genasi with fire-red hair. Silent as a stone statue a dwarf sat in the middle of the room with his eyes closed.
A commotion was heard from the hall outside the large holding cell and the insults from a foul sounding figure echoed in the vast cavern. A large quaggoth came into view and thrust two gulo and another Drow into the cell. The motions of the Drow guard and quaggoth were executed with a precision that showed they were very familiar of how to force their prisoners into the cell. As the commotion died down, Sorrow recognized that the Drow was Rolen, whom he’d believed was still on the surface world.
As Sorrow and Rolen began to share what they knew of their situation another familiar voice cut through. Kaitlyn Crookbrow stepped forward, telling the two Falconiers that following their departure from Cloudmouth she set off on her own adventures, which lead to her capture by the Drow slavers. Hearing civilized discussion, Thronduin the elf introduced himself and joined in the conversation which quickly turn to discussions of escape.
As this conversation was taking place the other prisoners were beginning to take notice. Mallor, the genasi approached as did Al’Zane, the dwarf, and Argan the human. It seemed that they were eager to get involved in any potential breakout attempts. They were all eager to lend whatever small trinkets they’ve discovered in their work details. As the planning continued, it was clear that several of the prisoners were uncomfortable with doing anything hasty.
The sounds of a heavy door disrupt the conversation followed by the loud jeers of a Drow guard. Two figures, Jorlan and Shoor, were seen walking across a rope bridge toward the holding cell. The Drow in front, Jorlan was carrying a steaming pot while Shoor hurled insults at him and called to the prisoners to come get their breakfast. Most of the prisoners immediately reached for their wooden bowls, lead by the manacled Orc. The orc slid his bowl through a small slot at the bottom of the door and eagerly received his thin mushroom broth. Following the orc, Rolen encouraged one of the gulo to see how far it can provoke the guards.
As the gulo was waiting for its scoop of soup, it reached through and tried to claw Jorlen. As it did so, the second Drow pulled a wand from his belt and pointed it towards the gulo while commanding it to step back. Seeing his opportunity, Al’Zane, the dwarf burst forward, grabbing the wand and engaging in a struggle to gain control. While the guards were distracted, Argan used a gem that Mallor had found and bashed open the lock on the door. In the back of the cell, Sorrow attempted to shatter what he believed to be the source of the anti-magic field that prevented them from using their spells and abilities.
The noise of the struggle between the dwarf and the Drow guard reached the guard house and Ilvara, the commander of the Drow camp, emerged. She called forward more guards and quaggoths to suppress the uprising. With the lock shattered, Al’Zane forced open the door and pummeled the Drow guards while evading the oncoming attack of the reinforcements. He was able to work himself through the crowd of quaggoth and Drow and reached Ilvara on the rope bridge. Seeing his opportunity, he grabbed hold of the silver key that was hanging from her belt and threw her off the bridge. The stunned guards and quaggoth withdrew to regroup as the rest of the prisoners emerged from the cell, taking Jorlan hostage and forcing him to lead them to their weapons.
Jorlan took the escaped prisoners to the guard house where they discovered all of their items in addition to stores of other equipment. Sorrow was dismayed when he could not find his father’s sword. Jorlan informed the group that items that appeared magical were stored in a lock cabinet. The key that Al’Zane ripped from Ilvara matched the lock and the group was able to retrieve their magical components and Sorrow found his sword. He had not known it had magical properties and Thronduin, after a few minutes studying it, believed he might be able to help Sorrow identify the true nature of the sword.
Once the group had donned their armor and secured their gear, they turned there attention to how they might escape. Jorlan offered little assistance and each of the prisoners from the Underdark provided their own suggestions. After a hasty conversation it was decided the group would press onwards toward Sloobludop and the Darklake which they are beginning to believe would lead them to the surface world. As they settled on their decision their attention turned towards the silence outside of the guard house and the dangers that awaited them as they attempt to leave the Drow camp.
Ilvara was not expecting the slaves, especially the worthless dwarf, to prove so willful and formidable. She assumed they would fall quickly before her quaggoths and elite soldiers, but that was certainly not the case. Jorlann had embarrassed himself, and his punishment would come. It’s no surprise that Shoor hadn't fought back - a better reminder that he is a worthless male, but he could be dealt with later. “Maybe I could disfigure the other half of his face…” she mused, but such thoughts of future joy were soon pushed out by outrage.
She’d never been so forcefully accosted by such a lesser being. Only the presence of demons, whose sudden appearance in the Underdark were a source of concern, could make her in the least bit nervous. A filthy dwarf should not so easily be able to toss her over the ledge - and in Velkynvelve, her own domain! She could still smell his terrible, earthy breath as he approached and threatened her. The dwarf would pay, slowly and terribly, for this embarrassment. Clearly slave life in Menzoboranzan would not be in his future - but the spiders could be satiated for a couple weeks as his insides slowly liquified and Lolth would be pleased. And maybe the other prisoners could watch… yes, that’s it.
Ilvara had heard the party rush into the armory after she fell onto the webs not 15 feet below the swinging bridge. A few dark shapes staring with multiple pairs of glistening eyes revealed the hulking spiders had recognized her and were awaiting her command. The prisoners would be armed now. And ready to fight. So be it.
She curled her tongue and gave a short, high pitched whistle that carried far through the cavern. Instantly, an obsidian spider appeared beside her, blinking into the material plane. She silently slid her legs over the harness attached to its back, gave an almost imperceptible command with her foot, and disappeared.
She didn’t have a lot of time to plan her next move.
With hushed voices and anxious looks, the group discussed the possibilities of their escape. The prisoners who’d been there the longest were of little help, knowing nothing of the camp other than the only apparent escape was an elevator at the far end. To complicate things, provisions within the camp were short as an expected shipment of supplies had been several days late.
Al’Zane impassionately requested that the group retrieve the statue that was behind the bars in their holding cell. Hearing his plea, Thronduin agreed with his motivation, but was hesitant to rush back the way they came. The rest of the prisoners were more vocal in their disagreement and, to Al’Zane’s disappointment, the group turned their attentions to planning their escape.
It was decided that they should attempt to raid the mess hall in which JimJar had served as a slave cleaning. They didn’t expect to find much, but anything would be better than setting off without any provisions. They would then make for the Darklake by way of Sloobludop, using the elevator as their escape route.
When the plan was decided, they looked beyond the windows of the guard house and realized that a darkness prevented even those who could see in darkness. Mallor dispelled the magic that blocked their sight and no motion could be seen, despite the clear sounds of activity they’d heard over the roar of the waterfall.
Sorrow volunteered to lead the prisoners on their way to the mess and, drawing his curved greatsword named Judgement, he rushed out the door and over the rope bridge that connected to the cavern wall. Mallor bravely followed, but the weight of the two adventurers was too much for the rope bridge which had been sabotaged by Ilvara’s troops. With a snap the ropes split and the bridge plummeted down. Sorrow and Mallor were both able to grab hold of the bridge as it fell and after a short fall of fifteen feet, the bridge was hung-up on the same webs that had craddled Ilvara on her fall.
Once the bridge had come to a rest, Sorrow leapt from the edge to the cliff wall and began climbing. Mallor followed close behind. Al’Zane, JimJar, Stool the mycnoid sprout, and the drow prisonor Sarith Kzekarit, all fled the guard house, heading down the rope bridge. As they made their way down the bridge, JimJar was suddenly outlined in a glowing plasma of purple light. Moments later he was pierced with many drow crossbow bolts and perished.
As the prisoners were being attacked from afar, several large spiders emerged and began attacking Mallor and Sorrow as they began climbing up the cliff to continue with their plan of reaching the elevators. A malicious laugh filled the cavern as Ilvara appeared, riding on the back of a large spider and began hurling spells at the escaping prisoners.
Thronduin used his knowledge of the arcane to summon a great fireball that burst near Ilvara and several of her drow soldiers. While they were focused on the threat across the cavern, Jorlan snuck around the stalactite using the drow innate levitation and attacked Thronduin from above. Argan grabbed hold of the drow and hurled him down to the other prisoners on the bridge, each attacking the drow as he floated above them.
Hoping to make use of Prince Derendil’s quaggoth claws and brute force, Thronduin encouraged him to to use his beastly strength. However, as Derendil gave into the nature of the quaggoth he turned his fury against Thronduin, attacking the elf rather than aiding the group. Thronduin was able to calm the beast and began doubting the legitimacy of the creature’s claims of a curse.
Sorrow reached the top of the cliff while Al’Zane and Mallor were fighting off the spiders under Ilvara’s command. S took a length of silken rope that he’d found in the guard house and threw it down to his allies on the bridge, tying it off to one of the posts which had previously supported the fallen bridge. He then turned his attention to making his way through the boulders blocking the path. Within the passage between the rocks he encountered a group of quaggoth. As Sorrow fought the quaggoths, Al’Zane made his way to the top and joined in the battle. The two overpowered the quaggoth and they lay slain at the adventurers’ feet.
As the drow forces were focused on the battle between Sorrow, Al’Zane, and the quaggoths, the rest of the prisoners, lead by Sarith Kzekarit and followed immediately by Argan, worked their way through the thick webs and dove into the waterfall. Mallor alerted Al’Zane and Sorrow that a new escape route was discovered then he fetched the body of JimJar before also using the waterfall to escape. Al’Zane and Sorrow each disengaged from the drow soldiers that were still guarding the exit and made for the waterfall, escaping with the rest of their group.
As Argan emerged from the large pool at the base of the waterfall he raised his sword and a bright glow illuminated the damp cavern floor. Already many in the party were stumbling toward one of the tunnels that led out of the large cavern. He recognized the rotund figure waddling in the lead as Shuushar, their aquatic guide on the journey to the Kuo Toa city of Slubludop by which they hoped to procure a boat and traverse the Darklake.
The comfort at the sight of their guide that reassured the party that at least they were not wholly lost in the vastness of the Underdark was quickly broken - overhead, echoing throughout the cavern, the air was filled with a horrible droning buzz and unearthly screeches. Though all was darkness outside the light of Argan's sword, they could catch the glint of terrible eyes swooping through the cavern. Those with darkvision shuddered as they caught glimpses of hideous, mosquito looking monsters with deadly, lance-like proboscis jutting out from their faces chasing down what appeared to be a small flock of feathered, bird-looking creatures with vicious beaks and large claws that protruded from their legs and arms. The large creature's schreeching and buzzing sent chills down the adventurers' spines. Even those in the party who had never seen a demon face to face could feel the presence of these abysmal terrors.
Those who had studied the arcane traditions had a sinking feeling - demons were not known to gather in these numbers in the Underdark.
Sounds of the drow defending their fortress of Velkynvelve from the sudden crossfire in the air battle between the two sets of these dread creatures shook the party into action. Any plan their drow captors had of pursuit would certainly be delayed by this interruption. Shuushar led them into the tunnel and the group, carrying their wounded, delved into the darkness. They continued through the winding maze of tunnels until long after they could no longer hear the sounds of the demons echoing through the stone passages. Eventually Shuushar led them to a small cavern sheltered from the view of the passageway from whence they had come, and there the group assessed their situation. Several were wounded and JimJar was dead. Overwhelmed by his inability to save him, Mallor solemnly laid JimJar to rest in a cairn, saying a prayer to the Silver Flame. He tossed a few gold pieces on the stone mound, repaying the wager JimJar had made him they they wouldn't get out of Velkynvelve alive.
Once a hasty camp was made, Thronduin attempted to remove the curse on Prince Derendil but was unsuccessful. Thronduin realized that he was not a cursed elf, but instead a quaggoth stricken with some kind of madness. As he gave voice to his concerns, Derendil began to foam at the mouth and gathered himself in fury. Sorrow, frustrated at their failed plan of escape, did not hesitate and slayed the “Prince” Derendil and immediately began field dressing the creature. Tough quaggoth meat would be the least of the adventurer’s worries as they now faced the dangerous journey to the Darklake.
“The journey to Slubludopp should take eight days,” the kua-toa pacifist reminded the party as they broke down the hastily made camp. The mood was somber as the campfire ashes were spread out. Nobody spoke of the meal they had the night before, the meat from the maddened quaggoth which was slain by Sorrow, nor the bones that now littered the edge of camp. Cautiously, the group left their camp and followed Shushar as he lead them toward the darklake, where they believed their time of safe passage in the underdark would begin. As the group traveled there were attempts to build a camaraderie and to inform the others why each of the adventurers found themselves in the underdark. Al’Zane sought artifacts of an ancient dwarven people, Thronduin wished to bring enlightenment to the races in the underdark, Sorrow believed he’d been sent by Helm to slay demons, Rolen sought adventure and treasure, while Argan and Mallor were exploring the underdark to find the source of the distress afflicting their people.
Travel through the underdark is never easy, even for the races that make it their home. For this diverse group of travelers, each day was a perilous march. Several in the group were able to see with the clarity of the infrared spectrum like the drow, while others had varying degrees of dark vision. The humans traveling with the group suffered long stretches in complete darkness. Without the sun the concepts of day and night quickly faded for the group. It was either time to march or time for camp, primarily dictated by their hunger. The quaggoth meat was not enough to last the group for more than a few meals. Early in their travels they chanced upon a stream. In the dim light of faerzress that surround the cavern the waterskins were refilled while nervous glances were exchanged and concerns of when the next potable water might be found.
Another cavern proved to be useful for foraging and many pounds of ripplebark that those familiar with the underdark flora encouraged the group to gather. While the trip was long and dark, each adventurer considered themselves lucky that they did not go hungry or thirsty.
The escapees were fortunate that they did not encounter any of the often feared beasts that roam the underdark. Several close encounters were avoided by the group leveraging the various arcane abilities of it’s members. The “nights”, however, were less welcoming. From the first time setting up camp, the sentry on watch was plagued by distant sounds. For each it was different, some heard screaming while others heard a scratching and tapping. Still unfamiliar with each other, tensions were high during these times as mistrust and suspicion was high. Sarith, the drow whom escaped with the group, warned those taking watch to not follow the sounds they heard, “they will lead only to destruction,” was his warning. Fitful sleep and anxious waiting filled the time in camp and motivated the group to press on to the dark lake.
After several days journey the party entered another of seemingly endless caverns, but this one was occupied by a new sight. Near several boulders were three humanoid creatures standing at attention. After getting a closer look, Al’Zane alerted the group that they looked like at one time they could have been drow, but they seemed to be rotting and had the appearance of fungus. A deep sense of dread washed over the party as each contemplated what to do. Sorrow sought the guidance of Helm, asking if this was the work of a demon. At the edges of his thoughts he heard a name whispered, “Zuggtmoy.” The evil presence was overwhelming to which Argan and Mallor responded with the purity of their gods. As Argan approached one of the rotten drow, he heard it whispering. “The day…of joy…is upon us” it spoke while seeming to be unaware of the presence of the party. Argan called upon his god to rid the world of this evilness and the rotting figure crumbed away.
Shaken, the group continued their journey to reach the dark lake. Shushar assured them, “the dark lake is closer. I am beginning to smell it.” After hours in a maze of tunnels, the group entered a large opening that gave way to a large chasm. Spider web stretched as far as they could see and after only a few moments, two goblins appeared and offered to guide the party across the webs, for a price.
Not wishing the journey to last any longer than it must, the group agreed and were shown the way to cross the spiderweb. Along the way, a small halfling was seen wrapped in the spider’s web, unconscious. Mallor quickly healed the halfling and cut him free. He introduced himself as Vargas and said he was a treasure hunter on his way to Neverlight Grove. He was offered the chance to join the group on their way to the dark lake, which he accepted.
After crossing the spider webs the group reached a fork in the path that Shushar was unsure of the best way to take. “I can smell the dark lake coming from both tunnels,” he told the group only to inform them that he must stop and consider which would be the correct way. Frustrated with the prospect of waiting on Shushar, the group decided to make small expedition parties to search the tunnels. Sorrow, Al’Zane, Thronduin, and Sarith went down one tunnel while Mallor and Vargas explored another.
After about an hour of travel, Sorrow, Al’Zane, Thronduin, and Sarith discovered a cavern filled with bones of all kinds of creatures. A tapping could be heard echoing through the cavern. Al’Zane scouted ahead and discovered a re-animated skeleton in dwarven armor was hammering the rock wall. Using his divine sense, Sorrow was able to identify the location of several more undead creatures in the cavern.
A plan was quickly formed and the group engaged the undead creatures only to discover that several larger skeletal creatures comprised of various creature’s bones mashed together were also present in the cavern. As Sorrow drew back his sword to take the first strike against the skeletal creatures, a blue light emanated from the blade, casting a dancing shadow as the fight began. The battle was difficult, but Sorrow’s blades, Al’Zane’s fists, and Thronduins magic were enough to dispel the cursed power that gave life to the dead.
During the combat, Thronduin drew from the more chaotic arcane lessons he learned as a young elf and launched a fireball into the creatures. As the flame filled the cavern, Al’Zane’s face hardened as he grit his teeth. The usually active dwarf froze while the fire flickered in his eyes, but the rest of him was emotionless. The flames triggered a memory from his past, a time when fire burned out of control by his own hand. Guilt and rage filled him. A part of him fought against that rage. He struggled hard to contain it and, this time, he did. The moment passed quickly and he stumbled towards a nearby boulder. As he felt the cool stone he was able to center himself and regain his composure. The only lasting sign of his internal battle was the few tears that had streaked across his begrimed face.
After they cleared the cavern, they discovered a large river at the far end, which contained several species of fish which the adventurers caught and took back to camp.
Meanwhile at the camp, Mallor and Vargas heard strange sounds from the tunnel nearby where they waited with Shuushar for the exploration parties to return. As they cautiously approached the sounds they saw a Duergar acting erratically, moving himself as though he were swimming through the air. Compelled to action, Mallor spoke to the Duergar and discovered he was suffering from some kind of madness that made the Duergar believe he was a gaseous being. Mallor cast a restorative spell which brought the Duergar back to his senses. He told Mallor his name was Grokdorrn and that he was not aware how long he was under the influence of the madness which took hold of him. He thanked Mallor and told him that, should he find himself in Gracklstugh, to “tell Gorglak of the Stone Guard that you saved the life of Grakdorrn of the Flamekeepers”
Mallor shared the tale of meeting Grakdorrn and of the madness that took hold of him. All who listened could not help but think of the strange sounds they’d heard in the caverns during their journey.
Sorrow offered to take the first watch, looking at no one in particular he said, "I am not yet weary.” He removed the scabbard which held his curved greatsword against his back and laid it across his lap. Running his golden colored fingers across the hilt, he felt the ornate carving as if for the first time. He studied the hilt and noticed the symbol of Helm for the first time. “Has that always been there?” He wondered to himself.
Standing, Sorrow slowly paced around the camp, half distracted by memories of the battles he’d faced since his mentor, Scholar, had sent him off with his father's sword. He remembered the speech his mentor had given him before he left.
“Your father, Arxius, was a mighty paladin for Helm. They called him the golden paladin, as his skin was the same brilliant color as yours and he wore a suit of golden armor. And this is his sword, a mighty weapon for the god of protectors. Your father gave it a name, but that name has died with him. You are responsible for it's new name and its care.”
The memory of the first demon he'd slain dances through his thoughts. A young imp tormenting a peasant girl. It was barely a fight. The greatsword sliced through the weak creature with ease. At the end of the fight he knew the name of the sword, “Judgement.”
Aloud, but to nobody in particular, Sorrow spoke. “There is great power in this blade, more than I know.”
Almost in a whisper he continued, “Helm, unlock the power in Judgement. Show me how to understand it and I will use it to slay your enemies. I pledge my life to it, to the decimation of those you would call an enemy.”
“I swear this to you, Helm. I will put nothing ahead of this. I feel the fiends in my bloodline, the irony is not lost on me. But this hatred I have, it comes from my cursed heritage and I will not put it aside. I will take vengeance on the wrongs my infernal ancestors have caused. I cannot settle the score, but, if you call me to it, I will be the nightmare of the devil. They will fear your vengeance and will fear me as the instrument of their death.”
As he ended his prayer, he is surprised to find that he'd unsheathed Judgement and had knelt down. There was a stillness in the air as Sorrow finished speaking - a thick Presence. Even those pre-occupied with preparing camp for the evening felt it and stopped to look around. It was unlike the brooding evil of the Underdark that they had experienced since their arrival, though it felt no less forbidding. The Presence was so thick in the cavern that it was almost suffocating. None dared move.
Thronduin searched his mind for the magic that was among them, but could not pinpoint it - he simply knew it was an incredible power. Mallor and Argan, the cleric and the paladin, guessed the truth - they were in the presence of a deity.
It was the cold, compassionless presence of a being who had stored up its righteous anger against the evils it had witnessed. For a moment all present were overcome with indignation as if a great injustice had been done them, but just when they were so overwhelmed they felt they would do violence to the very stones around them, the feeling was gone. The Presence was gone. It seemed like waking from a dream.
Except for Sorrow, still kneeling. His shoulders were no longer bent down in confusion. His amulet glowed warm on his chest. His head was looking down, but he held Judgement aloft, and a blue aura cascaded from the weapon onto his golden horns. He appeared simultaneously as a refuge and a threat. The small band witnessing this moment felt it looked like a challenge to the darkness. Without raising his gaze, Sorrow lowered his sword. The blue aura dimmed, casting a faint glow on his face and arms.
“There is a greater evil in this place, we all know this is true. A greater threat than the Underdark itself. Something vile that makes the atrocities common in this land seem tame.” Extending his left hand, he placed the blade of Judgement against his flesh and slowly drew it across. The honed steel cut easily and blood dripped to the dirt.
“My name Sorrow and I have been chosen by Helm to bring restitution to this dark place. There will be no mercy for the wicked. On this blood of mine I pledge myself that Helm's vengeance will be served. This is my oath. This is the purpose of my life. I believed my name was the summation of my birth, but I know now it is a warning to my enemies”
Sorrow stood and looked to Mallor, his golden and pupil-less eyes seem to glitter like gold. The blue aura on Judgement pulses like a heartbeat. “You ask to what I've been aimed? My target? Evil itself, the darkness that would challenge light. The wicked that pollutes the world.”
“Echoing through my bones I hear Helm say ‘Choose your fight’. He promised me peace through fighting. There will be no shortage of targets here. Demons are breaking through.” Sorrow slid the blade into its sheath. Those closest to him felt a difference as the blade is hidden away, as though some protection had been withdrawn from them. He placed his right hand over his bloody left hand and uttered a few words in his racial tongue. The bleeding stopped and the wound closed, leaving a scar that stood dark on his palm.
“The watch is mine. This night will be one of rest for us, the presence of Helm will linger,” Sorrow said while those around him watched. That was the first and only night of their journey in which the strange sounds were not heard in the tunnels.
The night watch passed uneventful and the group woke rested. Mallor, the Cleric, was consumed with wonder about the deity that had called the Tiefling to swear an oath of vengeance. The concept of a god calling on his subject to act as the judge and executioner did not sit well with the life domain cleric. With a slight unease, Mallor resolved to learn more of Sorrow’s history. With fewer rations each day, the group packed up and set off towards the dark lake. Shuushar, the kua-toa guide, was confident that they were only a few days journey from their destination. With him as their guide, they pressed on through the black tunnels.
Al’Zane often took the lead on their travels. Being light footed, he was able to quickly walk ahead and scout for the larger group. His footsteps made no noise on the loose gravel as he deftly sneaked along the caverns walls. Turning a corner, he saw four gaunt goblins huddled together behind a rock, their shoulders hunched, as they stoop low.
Able to telepathically communicate with the rest of the group through the rapport spores emitted from Stool, the myconid sprout, Al’Zane informed them of the creatures he had discovered, though he did not consider them to be a threat.
Mallor cast a spell to shape stone into a shelter for Shuushar, Stool, and the other more reserved members of the party. Then, making his way toward the goblins, Mallor casts produce flame and called out, “Little ones, you will find no meal here. We mean you no harm. Continue your hunt elsewhere!”
Vargas protested that the group would engage so directly, but Al’Zane assured him saying, “These goblins are more hungry than they are warriors. We can protect you my handling cousin.” Al’Zane stepped out and focused his ki to use elemental attunement to make a light flash behind he and Mallor, casting a silhouette and masking his true size. The goblins stare up at the shapes, hesitating before looking at each other. After a momentary pause, one of the smaller goblins pushed another forward. Stumbling for his footing, he pulled himself to his full height, still shorter by several inches than Al’Zane. Brandishing a rusty scimitar, he spoke in a crude common.
“Yus tressapassin’. Yus want for pass through Tikpog Cavern, yus for to pay,” the goblin hissed.
“Much much we gots Goblins in dis cavernens. Yus pays or we die yus,” growled a second goblin, stepping forward with a puffed out chest. Despite the confidence the goblins attempt to exude, neither Mallor nor Al’Zane felt any immediate danger.
Argan and Sorrow had lagged behind the party as they covered the rear watch of the party. Arriving after the goblins had been engaged, Argan speaks telepathically to the group, “Great. We have these two attempting to negotiate with the creatures?”
The larger goblin took a step forward and spoke to Mallor, “Yus pay or we die you before yus gets up. All yus food be puttin’ doon, then yus go. Tikpog spokens.” Brandishing his rusted sword, the goblin pounded his chest as he spit the last sentence at Mallor, attempting to seem intimidating. The cumulative effect of his efforts did nothing to mask the reality that he was a malnourished goblin who could barely hod his sword.
Sorrow spoke to the party through the rapport spores, “These creatures are not worth our time. Should they make true of their threat, judgement will fall upon their kin.” He then stepped forward and unsheathed his greatsword, Judgement, and pointed the blade towards the goblins.
“It is time for you to run and you will forget we are here if you want to live.” Sorrow threatened the goblins. He uttered a word in abysmal speech and tremors shook the ground below the goblin’s feet as Sorrow took a defensive stance.
Tikpog, the goblin leader, backed against the rock still holding his sword aloft, but was visibility shaking. The strength he had summoned to make his threats had vanished. “Me see! Me see! No fights’n yus! We’s help! Helpens yus. Yeahs. Sumtun biggin’ in dis cavernens. We’s be show’n yus. Yus’n then given us food!”
Sorrow’s eyes narrowed as he took a step forward, “Tell us what you know or be gone.”
Mallor placed a hand on Sorrow’s shoulder and approached the goblin, kneeling down to be eye level with the goblins. “We mean you no harm, friends. What threatens you?”
Tikpog and the other goblins eyes shift from the towering figure of Sorrow to the crouching figure of Mallor. Led by Tikpog, the goblins threw their weapons to the floor. “We’s run from’n dems night’n elfses. Dems makens we slaven! Long walk’n. Hungry!,” Tikpog cried while holding his stomach. “Summin in dis cavernen, it eaten me’s kin. Just us be liven. Yus given me’s food, me’s tell’n yus where it be. Yus die me’s, no matters, no foods.”
As the immediate threat is over, the rest of the group gathers near the goblins as Mallor is reaching into his pack and provides his portion of the rations to the goblins. Before anyone can speak, the four goblins greedily grab at Mallor, snatching the food and shoveling it into their mouths. There is a slight scuffle as the goblins fight over the meager rations like feral beats, but Tikpog ends up with the largest portion. With the last crumbs gone, the goblins slump against the boulder and they seem to have forgotten the party is present.
“Now, little ones, speak. What lies ahead?” Mallor asked.
Seemingly startled by the question, Tikpog seems confused before answering the question, “Ya, ya. Watch for end of cavernens. Summin be’s there.” He resolutely nods before turning back to his companions, satisfied with his answer.
“But, how were your companions taken?” Mallor pressed, but Sorrow interrupted, “You should consider your actions, cleric. You give food that you will need and there is no promise of more. You are foolish if you believe these scraps do anything to help these creatures.” Then, turning to the goblins, “Speak quickly, describe what attacked your kin.”
Mallor stood to face Sorrow “A moment small ones. My actions are always considered. Judgement does not always come by the sword, servant of Helm. I give what I can when I can. I am an enemy of death and whit this gift, I dealt it, if only for the moment.” Turning towards the goblins, “No, speak friends.”
Tikpog’s eyes get large as he remembers, ”Black’n elfes grab us in tunnel, put in biggus cage. Taken’s our sword and clothes. Me’s run from black’n elfes they not look’n, bars be big. Long walks. Much long walk! Sounds be chasen me’s, no stoppin’, me’s runs! Stay in this cavernen much time. Hears summin in the dark. Maybe good? Go’n to eats it. Just rock… rock with arms! It grabb’n! Eatens us, gone! We stay here’n now.”
“How close did this…rock…get to you, Tikpog?” Mallor asked
“Tikpog gotten close to rock. Me’s close touch’n it…but, stink! No rock. Then the eye’n open! It has’n one eye! Slippery snaken’s for arms! Come’n out, grabbin’ kin, makin’ black’n cloud! Me’s run!”
Sarith, the drow who’d escaped with the party, spoke to everyone telepathically, “These Goblins are unreliable. There are several creatures that he could be describing that have snakes for hands, but not sure what would pass as a rock.”
Sorrow, still frustrated with the actions of Mallor, replied sharply, “Is there many creature in the underdark that is reliable? This is a waste of our time, and our food.”
Sarith gave an audible intake of breath at the accusation, “These worthless creatures have at least alerted us to what could be in our path. We must pass the way they are describing.”
Realizing his overstatement, “I misspoke,” he replied to Sarith, “My frustrations have gotten the better of me. Your insight to this place is invaluable. Around every turn is something to distract and delay.”
Meanwhile, Mallor was focused on the goblins. He reached forward and cast a healing spell over them, curing their wounds. “Do you remember anything else, friends?” Ignoring Mallor’s consideration of the goblins Sorrow stands and says, “Rock creatures hunting goblins are of no interest to me. If it stands in our way, we will cut a path through. If it values its survival, we will pass and it can eat these creatures.”
“There is a line between confidence in your god and arrogance,” Mallor says, giving a knowing glance to Argan, “You would think I’d be used to new Paladins by now…”
“You give away your source for life and take a step toward death, but speak of your duty and then judge me for pressing on?” Sorrow replied, “I am not interested in saving the underdark. If that's your mission, then let your god guide you. If this rock beast stands in the way of the demon Helm despises, it will be cut down or I will die.”
At these words Tikpog brightens up, “Ya’s, for more foods me’s takens you where rock be, rock which gobbels. We’s show’n yus!”
Argan spoke telepathically to the group, “As much fun as killing a rock beast sounds like it could be, aren't we trying to get to the lake place this kua-toa is leading us to? Seems like an unnecessary risk. However, I do love quests. Say the word, Mallor, and we go kill the rock monster.”
Mallor, frustrated by the words of Sorrow, “I have yet to see bloodlust fulfill an honorable creature's mission, Blade of Helm.”
“You are foolish if you think I seek out creatures to kill due to bloodlust. You are also foolish if you think I'll hold my blade if something...or someone...stands in my way.” Sorrow replies to Mallor before speaking aloud to the goblins, “You say you’ll lead us to the beast. Is there a way past it?”
The goblins looked at each other, heads swinging back and forth, passing silent facial communication. After a few seconds Tikpog says, “Yus give’n food, me’s show’n way.” Sorrow stared down the goblins, “Not a negotiation. Lead us through or face the rock beast. If you prove useful, you can forage with us.”
Tikpog cried, “No food be here for foor age! Yus want find, us find. Me’s stay.”
At this point in the ‘negotiation’ Shuushar shuffles up. The information describing the beast is explained to him. “My people tell of the Great Sea Mother, she watches over us. She created my people out of the dark waters, and many other creatures as well. In our worship we bring things from the sea as tribute in thankfulness. Some of the creatures of the water, like us, have learned to live on land as well. Others, the very ones the Sea Mother created, have given up altogether on the waters and have learned to roam the caverns of the Underdark. I fear this may be such a creature.”
Sorrow replied, “If it comes from the sea, then it is of no concern of mine.”
“It's time to move,” Mallor interrupted, “Shushar, if you're sure that's the way we proceed, lead us. Small ones, stay close.”
Sorrow looked at Tikpog, “We did not seek you out and we do not need your 'guidance'. Stay or come. Do not interfere.” Sorrow sheaths judgement and falls to the rear of the party. The goblins huddled together and whispered in hushed tones. It seemed like an argument was taking place. Tikpog fell silent, crossed his arms, looked at a particularly scrawny and small goblin. Finally the small goblin stepped toward the adventurers and said, “Me’s’n show yus da way.”
Mallor sized up the scrawny goblin. He seemed for the moment to have been coerced into leading the group, but Mallor did not sense any deviousness from him. “What is your name, brave guide?” Mallor asked.
“I am Smobt, son of Grebt, son of Rnamx, son of Tnak, son of Zdas, son of Splugg the Smart” the small goblin replied. He was in earshot of Tikpog and the other two, and they groaned and rolled their eyes at Smobt’s pedigree dropping.
Smobt walked down the long cavern in the direction Shuushar and Sarith indicated you all needed to go. Shuushar seems ready enough to follow, though he mutters he won’t fight a fellow child of the Great Sea Mother.
Smobt lead the group for about ten minutes before the large cavern narrowed. Smobt pointed to the left, to an area filled with large boulders and a few stalactites that touch the ceiling, and said, “It that. In Rocks.” The adventurer’s slowly progressed forward, cautious of every scratch and echo surrounding them. Mallor leaned forward, straining to see into the darkness. Without warning, Rolen calls out a spell which caused the stones and walls to become iridescent, shedding a light blue glow. As quickly as their eyes adjust, all notice one boulder in the middle of the grove begin to quaver as the light washes over it. Two eyes the size of a gnome’s shield snap open and reflect the light and fixating on the group. Without a sound the creature charges towards the adventurers, traversing the boulder landscape with ease. It’s bulbous, fleshy upper body still glowing with faerie fire and it’s eight serpentine appendages were in a flurry, lashing out haphazardly as it crossed the terrain.
Al’Zane leapt in front of the rest of the adventurer’s before some had even realized the oncoming threat. With a shout, Al’Zane channeled the ki force that runs through his body Raising his hands to the side and then quickly capping them together, he sent a bolt of unseen force toward the beast. The force of the attack slammed against the creature, immediately causing bruises to form on it’s fleshy body and driving it away from the group. As it tumbles away the cruel, snapping sound of it’s beak underneath it is briefly exposed.
Emboldened by the actions of Al’Zane, both Mallor and Rolen step forward to unleash their own spells. Mallor speaks the incantation and casting his hands towards the creature a bright radiant light erupts from his holy symbol toward the creature. It latched several of it’s suckers to a nearby boulder and pulled itself to safety just before the beam could make contact. As it began to right itself, Rolen drew deep into his ability and shouted out the halting words of a fireball evocation. It slammed into the rocks, just wide of the beast which continued to pull itself to safety.
Argan then drew his greatsword, Durendal, and approached the creature. As he drew near Mallor came along his side. Shouting, “Your evil intentions are laid bare, beast!” He raised his holy symbol which once again emitted a bright light, this time in four beams which streak towards the creature. This time his spell was aim was true and the beast writhed in pain as the four radiant lights penetrated it’s skin.
The creature reared up, its eye reflecting blue from the faerie fire, orange from the diminishing flames of the fireball, and yellow from the guiding bolts of Mallor. A gurgling hiss erupts from it’s beak, causing Smobt and the rest of the goblins to dive for cover behind the rocks. Rolen unleashed another spell, this time three rays of fire exploded from his fingers and lash at the beast.
The party could smell the putrid stench of the creatures flesh as it burned from the scorching ray. The beast rushed forward, seemingly charging toward Mallor and Argan. Suddenly it stopped and a jet black noxious vapor emanated from the creature and filling the cavern, engulfing Mallor and Argan, but not quite reaching the rest of the party. Mallor began to choke on the vapor, the poison burning at his lungs while Argan was able to get a quick breath before being overtaken by the cloud. The vapor burned at his nostrils, but caused him no harm.
Argan, blinded by the thick cloud of vapor, lunged forward and swung Durendal blindly. His first swing went wide but his second slashed through the body of the beast. In the darkness a smile grew on Argan’s face. Calling forth the powers given to him by Forseti, Argan smote the beast with radiant energies which burst from his sword.
The vapor almost immediately dissipated and everyone could see Argan standing above the large, ruined carcass of the beast, Durendal still glimmered with some radiant light as the blade reflected the remnants of the faerie fire. Argan sheathed Durendal and picked up his quarterstaff and then etched another mark on it.
The rest of the party drew near and the goblins reappeared from their hiding spots. Shuushar looked at the dead beast, it’s body steaming from the fire and light, cut into pieces by Argan’s sword.
“Such violence to one of the Great Sea Mother’s creations. I have found in my meditations the way of peace, the way of non-violence. Come, let us continue. We will be there after two more rests.”
Argan replied, “Non-violence is a noble goal indeed. This creature cared none for your noble ideals. It would have eaten us and not thought twice about it. Forseti demands justice, and this creature is an abomination of everything noble and good. Well, it was. Now it's just food. I am sworn to protect all living beings, but this thing was not to be counted among the living. I shall sleep soundly.” The goblins demanded food for their “assistance” which Mallor freely provided from his portion. The goblins quickly fled the party once they’d received the rations and the group gathered their items to continue on.
After several more hours, Mallor asked Sarith if he had any memories return from his time before he was imprisoned. When Sarith retold the story, unable to recall the death of his companions, he was accosted by Bupiddo, who urged him to take credit for the deaths he was charged with. Immediately, Sarith went into a rage and a shouting match took place between the two underdark dwellers. As quickly as the rage came on, it subsided and Sarith and Buppido went to opposite ends of the march.
As Sarith walked away, Mallor prayed to the silver flame for any insight as to what caused Sarith’s memory loss and the sudden anger. He had expected Sarith’s memory loss to fade with time, having seen this sort of thing before–after a battle when he tended the wounded soldiers. But this sudden rage was very different from the reaction of a stunned soldier. Something about it made him start to think along other lines.
Mallor remembered his clerical studies, his memorization of powerful beings. He had of course been instructed on demons, and how they seek to corrupt and destroy this world through violence. A mortal would be shaken by the experience, though nothing more. But some demons–the most powerful ones–coming too close to their essence could break a mortal’s mind for a time and, sometimes, this breaking could become permanent.
He remembered this demon-induced madness came in three stages. Initially it was short lived, at the most a couple minutes. However, even when the symptoms would fade, the upsetting in the victim’s mind would only escalate.
The second stage of this madness lasted for many days, but then it too would fade. Lesser restoration, remove curse, and dispel evil would remove the symptoms, but not the underlying instability of the victim’s mind.
The third stage, however, was permanent… a damaging to their character which would last for the creatures natural life. Only the casting of greater restoration could cure permanent madness and restore the victim from the demon-induced madness.
Mallor’s mind continued to turn on the things he has realized. Suddenly the unexplained behavior of the creatures he has encountered all began to make sense. ‘Prince’ Derendil the Quaggoth, the duergar Grakdorrn who believed he was a mist, the horrid sounds that hound their steps, the terrible dreams in the night, and now Sarith, who apparently murdered his comrades on patrol and now the very mention of it brings him to the brink of violence…
Something more powerful than vrocks and chasme demons were present in these tunnels. Judging from what he’s heard, and the large area in which this phenomena is occurring, perhaps several somethings had taken residence in the underdark. Mallor shuddered at the thought.
Another morning passed uneventfully. As the group broke your trek for a meager lunch many wondered if Shuushar could make any sense of these caverns at all. Passages intersected and opened at dizzying angles. Shuushar continued to insist he can "smell" the Darklake. On that day the air began to feel more damp and black water occasionally dripped from the ceiling or oozed from cracks in the floors. There was a growing uneasiness as well. Since encountering the rotting drow days ago which spoke of an impending "day of joy" many in the party had pondered their meaning.
For the first time, Mallor sat away from the group as he pondered these recent events. His eyes slowly scan the party. “It cannot be coincidence that the Vigilant One, the Silver Flame, and the god of Justice have guided their servants to this place,” he thought. “If skilled warriors succumb to the madness after meeting these creatures, how will I heal those who challenge them?”
“We are close now, we should reach my home by the end of this day’s march!” Shushar told the group, urging everyone to hurry. The long march had taken its toll on all. Limited food and exhaustive marching had resulted in each adventurer appearing gaunt, their eyes sunken and dark. The thought of reaching the safety of Shushar’s people, despite the rumors of unrest, provided the group with a renewed sense of optimism.
As the adventurers exited a tunnel into a larger cavern they found themselves facing what seemed to be a Kua-Toa scouting party. There were several Kua-Toa of a similar size as Shushar, but others were substantially larger. A few were riding large crustaceans.
Shushar called out to his kin and approached. The conversation quickly turned tense, though none of the adventurers spoke the bubbling native Kua-Toa tongue to understand the source of the conflict. After several heated moments, the largest Kua-Toa struck out at Shushar, knocking the guide unconscious. A warcry rose from the rest of the scouting party and they attacked the group.
The adventurers were stunned to see such an act of violence, their only interaction with the Kua-Toa had been with Shushar, the self-proclaimed enlightened pacifist. Seeing this aggression the party readied themselves for this unexpected combat. Thronduin leveraged the mighty arcane knowledge and cast a spell of enthrallment over the Kua-Toa which rendered the vast majority of the scouting party charmed and stopped their attack. Al’Zane, Sorrow, and Argan did not hesitate in slaying those which resisted Thronduin’s spell.
Mallor called out to the fighters to stay their killing blows as he believed these Kua-Toa were under the influence of some kind of madness and needed rescuing. Sorrow, having just taken an oath of vengeance against the wickedness that seemed present in the Underdark, was reluctant. Despite Mallor’s objections, Sorrow slew the last Kua-Toa warrior left unaffected by Thronduin’s spell.
The fight was over nearly as quickly as it had begun. Those that had been charmed were tied up and left in the tunnel. Al’Zane tamed one of the large crustaceans and rode the beast along side the party. Shushar was healed and could not explain the irrational actions of his kin. He was certain that their actions were due to the influence of the “deep father”, what he considered to be the source of conflict in his people.
With a heightened sense of concern, the party continued their march toward Slubludopp. After a few hours the group heard voices speaking the Kua-Toa language echoing down a nearby tunnel. Not wishing to run into another scouting party the group found hiding spots among the rocks. As the voices grew louder, Shushar made a startling noise and emerged from his hiding spot. Unsure what was happening, the rest of the group stepped out, ready to attack.
“High priestess Plooploopleen!” Shushar called, “It is I, Shushar. I have returned!”
The group of Kua-Toa came to a sudden stop and then a slender and wrinkled Kua-toa stepped forward. The figure wore more ornate robes then any of the other Kua-Toa the group had encountered and both her native tongue and the common speech were eloquent.
After their greeting and Shushar introducing the group he had been traveling with, Plooploopleen, the high priestess of the Great Sea Mother, told the group of the great troubles taking place in Slubludopp. She was visibly upset that she was not able to offer the group the rest that they sought, warning them that a great unrest had swept through the Kua-Toa as more and more turned away from the Great Sea Mother toward the teachings and sacrifices demanded by the Deep Father.
She continued in shame, telling them that her own daughter, Bliplopodd, was the one speaking on behalf of the Deep Father. As both her mother and high priestess, she was distraught over the actions of Bliplopodd. Her efforts to bring peace back to her people had been without success and she had come to the decisions that the only hope for peace was to end Bliplopodd’s influence. All attempts to reason with her were fruitless and Plooploopleen believed the only choice was to end Bliplopodd’s life.
Plooploopleen told the adventurer’s her plan to offer a fake sacrifice to the Deep Father so that she could get close to her daughter, whom had at this point surrounded herself with large Kua-Toa guards. The Deep Father required sacrifices, which Bliplopodd had been performing at an increasing frequency. Unaware travelers in the underdark were being captured and offered as this sacrifice, which was to be the adventurer’s fate had they not defeated the Kua-Toa scouting party. Plooploopleen was hoping to find someone to act as a willing sacrifice on her behalf so that she could be present at the ritual. While the ritual was taking place, Plooploopleen would drive a dagger into Bliplopodd, killing her daughter and restoring peace, so she hoped.
Hearing the plan, Mallor offered to assist, being the willing sacrifice. Caitlyn quickly volunteered as well. The rest of the group would accompany Plooploopleen and attend the ritual. Argan was not happy with the decision of the cleric to offer up his life in this plan and swore that he would be there to prevent anything ill happening to him.
The party followed Plooploopleen to Slubludopp, entering through one of the gates that surrounded the settlement. Despite all they had heard, the Kua-Toa who walked the alleys did not seem to be dangerous or otherwise mad. However, as Plooploopleen gave them a tour, they noticed several recent additions, including a large, cruel alter which was stained red with the blood of all the previous sacrifices.
Once they reached Plooploopleen’s hut, the group finalized the plan. Those acting as sacrifices would assist Plooploopleen in slaying Bliplopodd while the rest dealt with the Kua-Toa loyal to the Deep Father. Plooploopleen’s hope was that once Bliplopodd was slain the ones loyal to her would no longer fight.
As the final preparations were being made a loud cry was heard from elsewhere in the village. “I have learned his name!” A shrill voice called out in gurgling common, surrounded by the bubbling Kua-Toa language. “The Deep Father has revealed himself to me. His Name is Leemoogoogon!”
A cacophony of Kua-Toa voices then echoed in the huge chamber. “Leemoogoogon! Leemoogoogon!” A panicked look crossed Plooploopleen’s face as she heard the cry of her kin.
“We must act now, we cannot have more of my people give themselves to this cult,” she pleaded. The group rose and agreed that now was the time to act. Plooploopleen sent one of her servants to inform Bliplopodd that her mother had a sacrifice for the Deep Father and to meet them at the alter.
The party gathered their items and followed the Kua-Toa to the sacrificial alter on the shore of the dark lake. As they approached they saw that under the surface of the water there were many creatures that seemed to be anticipating the aftermath of the sacrifice. The group assumed that the remains of the victims were thrown into the dark lake and these creatures would feast on the corpse.
Shortly after they arrived a procession of Kua-Toa, lead by Bliplopodd arrived. Bliplopodd’s appearance was the opposite of the elegance of her mother. She wore tattered robes which were stained with blood and unknown stains. Her skin was dirty and many of the scales that covered her were ashen in color and flaking off. Her arms were a lattice work of scars, seemingly self-inflected wounds. What the adventurer’s noticed the most was the wildness in her large eyes. Never seeming to focus on any one thing, they danced around as she spoke.
“Mother! You wish to offer a great gift to the Deep Father? Have you turned from the pathetic Sea Mother and come to know that all power comes from the Deep Father?” Bliplopodd called out for all to hear.
“These travelers were found outside our village and will serve as a sacrifice,” Plooploopleen replied, “Allow me to see what you have seen and I will know for sure who we are to worship.”
“Leemoogoogon! Leemoogoogon is the Deep Father and we shall worship him! Prepare the alter!” Bliplopodd shouted. Her servants immediately went to the alter and began affixing ropes.
“Allow me, daughter, to witness this sacrifice next to you. Surely the Deep Father would be pleased for a high priestess to see this ritual up close.” Plooploopleen asked her daughter as they waited for the altar to be prepared.
“Leemoogoogon does not care if you are a high priestess or if you are one who works in the waste chutes. You may watch the sacrifice and come to worship him!” Bliplopodd called out in reply.
Mallor and Caitlyn took their spots on the alter while the rest of the adventurers stood at the front of the crowd that had gathered. The Kua-Toa that surrounded them were already beginning to work themselves into a state of excitement as the ritual began. The sacrifices were instructed to lay down and their arms and legs were bound while the crowd began chanting, lead by Bliplopodd. The creatures in the waters under the altar seemed to react to the chants and the surface began to break with the frenzy of activity below.
Plooploopleen stood next to her daughter as she began reciting an incantation that was neither her native tongue nor common. Mallor recognized it as abyssal, but could not understand what was being said as the cries of the gathered Kua-Toa drowned out the shrill voice of Bliplopodd. As the incantation grew more excited, Bliplopodd drew out a long and twisted ceremonial dagger and drug the point down across her arm, drawing a thin line of blood and adding a new scar.
“All Hail Leemoogoogon!” She shouted as she grasped the dagger in both hands and raised it above her head, drops of her blood falling onto the ground and herself. As soon as she had done this, Plooploopleen pulled out a small dagger she had concealed in her robes and rushed at Bliplopood, driving it deep into her midsection. Her voice changed from the shrill chanting to an agonizing scream. The chants of the Kua-Toa crowd continued, most unaware of the attack on their cultist leader.
Bliplopodd’s guards, however, saw the attack and immediately rushed forward faster than the other adventurers could react. They knocked Plooploopleen away, sending the small dagger she carried skittering across the ground into the crowd. Sorrow and Al’Zane rushed forward to fend the attackers off of Plooploopleen while Argan went to free Mallor and Caitlyn from the alter. Al’Zane knocked many of the Kua-Toa guards away from Plooploopleen while Sorrow cut through those that had surrounded Bliplopodd.
As Sorrow drew close she saw the the Bliplopodd was injured, but was not dead. Anger burned in him as the chants of the Kua-Toa still rang in his ears. With the cries of “Leemoogoogon” echoing around him, he raised Judgement and drove it down through the chest of Bliplopodd, killing her instantly. Her blood ran down the slope into the water and the creatures that had gathered near the alter worked themselves into an even greater frenzy at the taste of it.
With Bliplopodd slain, the adventurers sought each other out and started making their way towards a dock where Plooploopleen had arranged for a boatsman to be waiting for them to make their escape. The chants of the crowd has slowly begun to transform into screams as those closest to the alter watched the slaying of Bliplopodd. Suddenly, drowning out the crowd, two chilling shrieks echoed across the Darklake. Looking out, the adventurers saw that a large area of the water was churning. Bursting out were two winged beasts which Argan and Mallor immediately recognized as vrock demons, the same type of creatures that had attacked them prior to their capture, and later had descended on Velkynvelve to allow their escape. In several ways they differed from the Vrock demons they had previously encountered - each of them had two hideous heads, and their plumage was brighter - purples and reds were among their deep black feathers.
The vrock flew around the cavern and then swooped down at the alter, grabbing several Kua-Toa in their talons before flying up and dropping them from a great height. All the chanting had now given way to screams of terror as the Kua-Toa began running away from the shore. The less fortunate were trampled under the mass of the frightening crowd. The vrock made several passes before seeing the adventurers rushing towards the dock, separating themselves from the crowd.
Cutting them off from the dock, one of the vrock dropped down in front of Sorrow while the other cut off the route of Argan, Mallor, and Al’Zane. Unrelenting, Argan and Al’Zane threw themselves at the vrock. Rolen teleported himself and Sarith to higher ground where they were able to attack the demons from a distance. Sorrow drew out Judgement and savagely attacked the winged fiend.
Distracted by the immediate demonic threat in front of them, only Thronduin, who’d already made his way to the boat, saw that rising from the churning water in the dark lake was a gigantic creature. The water was turning to steam as though an immense fire was raging nearby which obscured Thronduin’s vision. However, the creature continued to rise out of the water, eventually standing to nearly thirty feet above the surface. Thronduin did not need to struggle to recognize the creature…This was Demogorgon, the self proclaimed demon prince. A great terror gripped Thronduin as he realized this. This was not supposed to be able to happen, the demon lords were banished to the abyssal plane and were not able to enter the material plane. His mind raced and his great intellect could not reconcile what he was seeing. Gripping his head in his hands he forced his body to look away from the demon lord.
The others were busy fighting the vrock demons which threw themselves at the adventurers. Several well placed strikes by Sorrow as the vrock exposed its dual necks allowed Sorrow to sever the fiend’s heads. The shriek was deafening as it’s body seemed to collapse into itself before disappearing. Sorrow then turned his attention to the other vrock and aided Argan and Al’Zane in their fight. After slaying the second beast, the great cry of Demogorgon echoed across the surface of the water. Sorrow turned to face Demogorgon and, as with Thronduin, a great terror gripped him, causing him to stand paralyzed and facing the demon lord.
After a moment the terror the gripped Sorrow was broken. His resolve to fight what he believed to be demonic forces in the Underdark was shaken after seeing Demogorgon and he called to the others in his party to make their way to the boat. They ran to the dock while Demogorgon came closer to the shore. They boarded the boat and pushed off as Demogorgon reached Slubludopp and stepped onto shore. Each step saw him swing his tentacled arms, sweeping up whatever Kua-Toa had not managed to flee. Mallor looked back and saw Vargas, the halfling that had accompanied them, step out from the hut he had disappeared into to be scooped up by Demogorgon and thrown into the gaping maw of one of his ferocious heads.
The Kua-Toa guide whom Plooploopleen had tasked to ferry the party was distraught, but performed his final command from the high priestess admirably. He instructed the party to grab the oars and row in order to get away from Slubludopp and the destruction that was befalling the village. Sorrow, Mallor, Thronduin, and Sarith rushed to grab the oars, but they were not completely successful in navigating the dangerous route. Their longboat scraped across jagged rocks jutting up from the water and the group was then tasked to keep the boat from taking on water.
As they mended the boat, they all looked back towards the devastation happening in Slubludopp. Fires were breaking out as Demogorgon continued to walk through the village, destroying huts and killing any that were in his way. The screams of Kua-Toa mixed with the roars of Demogorgon. The sound could not easily be forgotten, even as it slowly faded away as they continued away on the dark lake.
After several hours they were finally far enough away from Slubludopp that they felt that they could stop. They tended to their wounds, took inventory of their provisions, and worked to patch the boat. It was then that the reality of what had just happened sunk in to each of them. A demon lord had broken into the Underdark. What did that mean and how could it be stopped?
The waters on the Darklake are nearly silent, only drips of condensation from the stalactites and sounds of Glugalugg, their Kuotoa guide, pushing the boat with his long pole interrupted the silent world. The refugees from Slubludopp were scattered around the boat, some huddled close together while others sought solace in empty corners of the boat. Despite the best efforts of the crew, the boat suffered damage while escaping the razing of Demogorgon. The boat began to take on water, but the party was able to conjure ice to plug the hole in the hull and offer a temporary patch. It was not long before Glugalugg found an island with the types of fungus needed to repair the boat.
A search party was formed to go ashore and after a short search the group stumbled upon an unexpected sight. Several large myconids were gathered around a small fire in the middle of a fungus grove, each one eccentrically dancing around the fire. Stool spoke to the group through the rapport spores, “These are my kin!” The adventurers cautiously approached the circle and were approached by a large myconid who quickly released his own rapport spores which everyone accepted.
“Welcome, welcome! I am Voosbur!” The Myconids thoughts rang like a song in each of their minds. “You have come in time! We are preparing for the celebration, a day of joy! Please, please, will you accept the Lady’s gift?” The party was divided as they learned that the lady’s gift would allow them to travel via teleportation from fungus to fungus, quickly getting them to Neverlight Grove. After a debate, Caitlyn followed by Al’Zane and Sarith accepted the gift and Voosbur released another set of spores, violet in color. Using their new ability, Al’Zane, Caitlyn, and Sarith traveled toward what they believed would be the Neverlight Grove. The rest of the party left the myconids, harvested materials to repair the boat, and returned to the Darklake.
Continuing their slow travel by boat, the remaining adventurers kept an anxious watch as they slipped across the Darklake. The group stopped infrequently and when they did they kept an avid watch. Eventually they worked through the winding tunnels and entered a larger cavern where the lake spread out. Mallor spotted the distant boat first, it’s lantern a small beacon of light in the darkness. Glugalugg quietly informed the group that the other boat was signaling that it would approach. Tensions ran high as the group decided it best to allow the foreign boat to approach. As it drew near they could see a lone, elder Duergar sitting on deck.
Calling out to the party, the old Duergar told them he was a merchant, fleeing from the madness of the “Deep King”, the ruler of Gracklestugh. He invited several of the party members to come aboard is boat to examine his wares, “The finest swords and armor in the Underdark,” he claimed. Wary of his invitation, the group hesitated and eventually told the Duergar to move on. It was then that crossbow bolts were fired from others hidden on the merchant ship with an invisibility spell. Glugalugg was hit, and collalpsed at the back of the boat, choking on the bolt that had pierced his throat. It was an ambush and throughout the fight it was clear the Duerger’s were slavers looking for their next victims.
Despite the violent fight, the adventurers overwhelmed the slavers and stayed their leader. The rest threw down their arms and surrendered. Demanding the weapons and armor they were carrying in exchange for their lives. Argan hastily channeled the power of his diety to heal Glugalug, without whom they would be lost in the winding passages of the Darklake. After carrying over the crates, the slavers piloted their boat away from the adventurers. Sorrow took possession of a enchanted short sword and a suit of full plate armor. Before any other discussion, Mallor dumped the remaining items into the Darklake and called down a column of radiant fire against the slavers, bursting their ship and causing them to dive into the Darklake and abandon their ship.
Argan and Sorrow called out to Mallor to stop his attack against the Duergar, each protesting his attack against the defeated foe. Mallor then slumped to the deck of the boat. He murmured that he couldn’t control it and that the slavers needed to be punished. Frustrated by his actions, Sorrow angrily withdrew from Mallor while Argan began consoling his closest companion. Mallor shared that he could not hold back his anger that evil slavers would be allowed to freely roam the Darklake to make others victim of their misdeeds. He asked forgiveness from the Silver Flame, who appeared in a burst of radiant light in the form a small girl. The figure rested its hand on Mallor and then disappeared in blinding light. Reassured that he was still in favor with his deity, but still troubled by his own actions, he withdrew to pray.
Al’Zane, Caitlyn, and Sarith arrived near Neverlight Grove quickly, just as Voosbur said they would. They soon met a myconid named Looblum, who said it was the leader of the “Circle of Hunters” and that the adventurers had arrived in the Fungal Wastes, a forest of large fungi that borders Neverlight Grove. Looblum was currently tracking some sort of large creature that had entered the Fungal Wastes. The myconid agreed to take them to his sovereigns if they would accompany him on his quest, though Looblum warned them that the myconid colony had experienced many changes over the last month. Phylo, and the circles that followed it, were acting strangely.
After following the trail of a very large Grick, Al’Zane discovered that the creature was old and ailing, and had probably entered the Fungal Wastes to die. Looblum seemed to understand, and patiently waited for the creature to die a natural death. After it finally died, Looblum introduced special spores into the dead creature that reanimated it, then lead the way for the party with the grick spore servant following silently behind.
Upon at the grove, they were taken to the sovereigns, Phylo and Basidia. As they approached the sovereigns, they could see a large gathering of myconids in the distance, each seeming to dance and share spores with each other. Though they were nearly silent, it seemed to be a joyous occasion. Sarith, seemed to be drawn to this group despite Al’Zane and Caitlyn calling him to join them.
When they reached the sovereigns they were offered rapport spores by Basidia, a large myconid who seemed to be sitting. Phylo, a tall and lean myconid, left the group and headed toward the dancing group. As they conversed with Basidia, they learned that many of the myconids were preparing for the wedding feast of “The Lady”, which was to be a day of joy. More and more of the myconids were giving themselves to the task of preparing the feast. Only a few circles of myconids were still loyal to Basidia, whom felt a great unease about the present of “The Lady”.
He offered to grant them a place to rest and to show them around the fungal wilds as they waited for the rest of their party to arrive. For several days they waited. Al’Zane woke each morning feeling as though he were fighting off a sickness, like the coughing fits a young dwarf might have to endure. Caitlyn seemed to be ill as well. She became slower and more withdrawn each morning. Sarith remained with the others, but regularly sat and watched the dancing myconids. Each day Basidia spoke to them of the Neverlight Grove, his kind, and relayed the arrival of “The Lady”. Basidia had never seen nor spoke to “The Lady”. All his knowledge came from communing with Phylo.
Every passing day caused Al’Zane to wonder when the other’s he had escaped with would arrive.
The journey on the Darklake was mostly quiet after the encounter with the Duergar slavers. As the group was preparing to stop for a meal, Thronduin heard the sounds of distant voices echoing across the Darklake. Glugalugg guided the boat behind a small outcropping and the group sat silent, waiting to see the source of the sound. After several excruciating minutes, a small boat appeared with several Drow aboard. They could clearly hear them discussing their escape. Their speech made it obvious they disliked the hunt, but feared Ilvara enough to continue. They passed the group without incident and, after a long wait, Glugalugg pushed the boat back onto the Darklake.
Shortly after they came to a lock and dam used to raise and lower boats over a change in height of the Dark lake. There was no sign of the Drow, so the group decided to operate the machinery to continue their journey. Buppido surprised the group by offering to go ashore and operate the gears. Thronduin offered to go along. Sorrow and Argan actively kept watch for an ambush from the Drow. Mallor cast an enchantment to allow them to walk on water as everyone took their place.
A cry of pain echoed from the shore shortly after Buppido and Thronduin turned the corner near the gear. Sorrow raced across the water followed by Argan and Mallor. As they turned the corner they saw Buppido standing alone, clutching a bloody dagger and chanting in abyssal. As Buppido saw them arrive he began cursing at the adventurers. “You’ve seen him!” Buppido shouted, “Our lord has arrived. Demegorgon is here and you will all die!”
Argan and Sorrow, both with their swords drawn, rebuked Buppido and cleared their minds to detect any demonic presence. Despite the rantings of the mad Buppido, they sensed no demonic presence. It was clear to the paladins that his madness was that of a demon worshiper and not because he was a demon himself. While Sorrow demanded that Buppido speak the truth about his involvement with Demegorgon, Thronduin pulled himself over the edge of the cliff that Buppido had shoved him over. Despite a gash to his midsection, Thronduin was relatively unharmed.
In response to Sorrow’s question and between shouts of the coming reign of Demogorgon, Buppido spoke of a cult worshiping the self-proclaimed prince of demons under the streets of Gracklestugh. As the ranting continued Argan could see the righteous anger rising in Sorrow. He demanded that Buppido be silent though his command was ignored. Having reached his limit of the mad ravings of Buppido, Sorrow stepped forward with his greatsword, Judgement, drawn. Buppido made no movement and continued to spit curses in abyssal at each of them. Moving quickly, Sorrow grabbed Buppido and kicked the back of his knees, dropping him to a kneeling position. Buppido made no attempts to escape, nor did the curses and spittle stop. Argan, watching silently placed Durendal’s blade down in front of him, holding the hilt and bowing his head.
“You will feel the vengeance of Helm burn against you, Demon worshiper,” Sorrow said as he swung the greatsword in a fluid arch, severing Buppido’s head in a single blow. The immediate silence was only broken by the flopping of the decapitated body bucking as the life force left. Sorrow used the body of Buppido to wipe the blood of Judgement before sheathing the Greatsword. He then grabbed the severed head by the hair and tossed it into the pooling blood next to the body. “Now is the time to call down your fire,” Sorrow said to Mallor. After quickly searching the body and finding nothing of value, Mallor lit the body of Buppido ablaze.
After healing Thronduin and learning that as soon as they’d rounded the corner Buppido had attacked, the group was once again in a somber and frustrated mood. Every corner brought more dangers and what were the implications of having traveled so long with the demon worshiper. They passed through the dam and after a short, quiet journey, they reached another large cavern. It was clear that this was a popular trade route as there were many different boats, each loaded with cargo, passengers, and crew.
Shortly after entering the traffic of the Darklake another boat seemed to set its course to rendezvous with the adventurers…