Out of the Abyss

The Events of Gracklstugh
Or - A Recap of the Last Few Weeks

The party’s voyage took them out across the Darklake towards the ruddy lights of Gracklstugh in the distance. Before they could reach the city, Artorius detected a strange psychic resonance reaching out from below the waters. Somewhere between curious as to what it could be and worried as to what may be lurking below them, the party investigated, finding a cave entrance in a massive stalagmite leading into a series of tunnels below the lake.

The source of the psychic call proved to be more curious than worrisome as the party met Glabbagool, an intelligent (more or less) gelatinous cube. How it became intelligent it couldn’t quite say but given the recent happenings and that its home was an abandoned temple of Juiblex, it’s likely that the presence of the demon lords had something to do with it. Friendly enough and certainly an interesting curiosity, the party brought Glabbagool with, much to the delight of Sloopidoop.

Upon reach Gracklstugh, Sloopidoop dropped off the party before departing back into the Darklake along with Shuushar and Glabbagool. Now in a mostly friendly town, several of the Velkynvelve Prisoners also took their leave, only Eldeth Feldrun, Jimjar, and Stool staying with the group, plus the rescued halfling Fargas Rumblefoot.

Following Jimjar’s advice, the party set up at an inn named Ghohlbrorn’s Lair, it’s name a rather derogatory term for non-dwarves but the inn itself being the most welcoming place for outsiders in the city. The Blade Bazaar, the district in which the inn was located, proved to be a much bigger melting pot than anywhere else in the Underdark the party had encountered – even The Bloodhorn didn’t get any second looks as he was far from the only minotaur in the city. The party spent a few days enjoying what they could of the city, sleeping in proper beds with meals of more than just mushrooms and a chance to actually spend some of their coin. The relative peace of the city was shattered one day at the bazaar though as a two-headed giant burst through one of the outer guard walls, rampaging through the market with reckless abandon.

The party joined the fight with the duergar guards that seemed to be having a hard time wrangling the beast and managed to take it down. The beast was far from an ettin though, appearing more to be a mutated stone giant with its second head being much smaller and malformed. Shortly on the trail of the monstrosity, a young stone giant in shamanistic attire ran up, slightly dismayed to see the other one dead. After conversing with the duergar and handing them a small bag, he turned to the party and thanked them for what they had done, inviting them to come with him to visit his clan at Cairngorm Cavern, an offshoot of Gracklstugh, if they wanted to find out what happened. He then took the body and left.

The party followed the giant, unable to resist the lure of information or the safe passage he could guarantee through the parts of the city normally restricted to outsiders. The stone giant’s cavern was massive, the walls studded with gemstones of all variety, including faerzress, and dwellings carved directly into the walls. Waiting for the party was a wizened stone giant named Hgraam Stonespeaker. The giant spoke little, thanking the party for returning their corrupted brethren to the stone and rewarding them with with the Stonespeaker Crystal. He then relayed a cryptic warning of the visions he had received upon returning from the Dreamlands:

“Something evil stirs in the Underdark. The rock itself cries in pain and horror, and a madness creeps from the blackest depths. Pay heed to the signs surrounding you. A cave with two faces. Rock devoured, and the land overgrown. The pebble believes itself flesh. The earth rejects its wards, and the tunnels shake in fury. By these portents, you shall know of evil’s presence and of evil’s face. This is what the stones tell me.”

Left with that to think about, the party returned to their inn. With nothing else to do in the city at present, the party used their token from Grazilaxx to contact The Society of Brilliance. Within the day, they were visited by Blurg who offered them transportation to the society’s headquarters. He sailed them out into nearly the middle of the Darklake before activating an enchantment on his boat that caused it to sink below the water, safely surrounded by a bubble of air. The boat steered into a cave at the base of a now underwater stalagmite before rising up to a dock in a hallway of worked stone leading towards a massive double door emblazoned with the symbol of the society.

Blurg led the party through the doors where they were greeted by Grazilaxx and Sloop, welcoming them to their headquarters. The structure had a variety of architectural styles, some hallways carved in geometric dwarven patterns, others in fine marble from surface mines, and still others more alien. While given largely free access to the society’s libraries and other facilities (including a hot spring bathing room), there were still restricted areas as they weren’t members. Artorius and Namie were very set on changing that fact though and petitioned Grazilaxx to join them. He seemed a bit hesitant at first since most of them were from or had plans to return to the surface which made their desire to sincerely aid the Underdark suspect. However, they managed to convince him of their intentions and he gave them a test – contact their agent Themberchaud in Gracklstugh and perform the task she gave them. He then introduced them to another member of the society, a duergar Stone Guard named Errde Blackskull.

Errde gave the party insignias that would allow them to travel freely through the city and told them to go to the Temple of the Keepers of the Flame, the center of worship for the chief duergar deity Laduguer. There, they would present a different token to whichever priest they encountered and tell them they have an audience with Themberchaud.

Once back in Gracklstugh, the plan went exactly as Errde said it would. Once in the temple, a black basalt pyramid lined with dozens of braziers, the first priest the party encountered, upon seeing the symbol, led them to the main altar where a secret switch slid it aside, revealing a long staircase down.

At the bottom of the stairs, the party was greeted by a wave of oppressive heat and a sight from their dreams – a pile of gold twice as tall as a man. The owner of the gold soon revealed herself with a sneer and a lick of her reptilian lips, a massive red dragon trundling forward through the pile of gold. Though impressive in size as any dragon, the dragon was exceptionally large, apparently overweight from her diet of captive slaves, something she mistook the party for being. Themberchaud postured a bit for the invisible duergar in the room before suggesting, rather forcefully, that they leave.

Once alone, Themberchaud assumed her human form, a surprisingly pleasant, plump matronly type, and greeted the party. She confirmed that was was indeed a member of the society and that her task was a straightforward one – retrieve her stolen egg. The Keepers of the Flame had taken it from her with the intent to raise it as her replacement, the dwarves believing red dragons to be a herald of their deity but that Themberchaud was becoming a bit too willful and resistant in her religious duties to them. However, the dwarves themselves had lost the egg to the city’s thieves guild, the Grey Ghosts. If the party returned her egg to her, she would not only reward them but sponsor their membership to the society. She told the party to speak with one of the keepers and to do what they said – the dwarves didn’t know she knew their plan but she assumed they would likely enlist the party to retrieve the egg.

The dragon was right. Once the party talked to the red-robed dwarf at the top of the stairs, he gave them the task of retrieving the egg from the thieves. The only lead they had was a derro named Droki. Though they didn’t know if he was directly involved with the theft, they did know that he ran packages for the ghosts and that he would probably have information if nothing else. Droki turned out to be rather easy to track down, a derro scurrying around the bazaar talking to himself wasn’t exactly a common sight, but he turned out to be much harder to catch as he turned invisible and sped away faster than he should be able to.

The second plan was a little more unorthodox but surprisingly more effective. Alfh and Silaria constructed a fake red dragon egg out of paper mache then put out the word, with the help of Jimjar, that they had “something big” to sell. The word spread pretty quickly and they had an offer within a day. A group of leather-clad duergar escorted them and their dragon egg into Laduguer’s Furrow, a cleft through the middle of the city which was effectively a ghetto for the derro. It didn’t prove quite as easy as all that though when the duergar attacked outside a cave entrance, using their invisibility to try getting the jump on the party. Droki again showed his face as he attempted to steal the egg but was again found out and beat a hasty retreat.

After the duergar were dealt with, the party went through the door and entered a cave complex.The entire cave was studded with faerzress and mushrooms of all types, of note two magical varieties that caused someone to shrink or grow when ingested. In one of the cave’s chambers, the party found their old friend Buppido, his true nature revealed as he babbled and shouted incoherently for a bit before threatening the party with death and summoning a group of undead to aid him. The party defeated him and found that his summoning circle was attempting to reach something from the outer planes, though they disrupted the ritual, and the circle, before it could be completed.

Further into the cave, they found a group of myconid swaying and dancing, reveling in the light of the faerzress. They invited the party to join them as they were celebrating the impending marriage of their new queen to her intended. Aware that this was referring to the machinations of the demon queen Zuggtmoy, the party respectfully declined, except for Artorius who accepted to be connected to their beautiful queen. What he saw was other myconid all throughout the Underdark doing the same, even catching a glimpse of Zuggtmoy and Araumycos. However, that night, someone seemed to take exception of another influence reaching his mind and he dreamed of the spores being ripped from him by unseen tentacles from the dark. By morning, he was fine.

Overnight, the party found a new guest as a flumph floated to where they were resting, introducing himself as Flumph. Flumph and the other flumphs lived in this cave once though they were kicked out by the derror cultists. After them came the duergar theives, and at that point there was no room left for the flumph. He gave them a rundown of the layout of the cave and where to find the other factions, wanting to help the group in whatever way he can, despite not being much of a fighter.

Flumph’s layout proved to be pretty accurate as they found two sets of cultists, the first attempting to summon “the Demon Prince of Undeath and the Lord of Blood.” Further into the cave, they found more cultists guarding the dragon egg and, more interestingly, a massive obelisk made out of some black material that could have been metal or stone, was cool to the touch, and appeared to be a null space in the fabric of the Weave, disrupting any magic that came into contact with it. Its purpose could not yet be gleaned, even after the party took a rest to study it, but they had more urgent matters to attend to. A search of the rest of the cavern turned up what looked like where the thieves likely were but had abandoned after the fighting had started. Past where Flumph had said there was a water weird summoned by the cultists (which the party managed to avoid), they found the Black Crystal Sword, seemingly a shard from the larger obelisk but clearly fashioned to be a weapon. After some experimenting, they determined that it could only be effectively wielded by someone who couldn’t use magic, so the Bloodhorn gladly took it up.

The party retrieved the egg, putting it into their magical bag along with Namie to keep it magically heated as something appeared to be stirring inside. They used their copy egg to fool the duergar priests as to their plan, getting them to help make it more realistic so they could use it to fool the thieves, while Silaria sneaked below to return the egg to Themberchaud. The dragon was appropriately grateful, shoveling a pile from her hoard into their bag after removing the egg, then told them to head back to the society headquarters where she would meet them.

Psychically reaching out to Grazilaxx, Artorius called for a lift as they swiftly headed to the docks. Blurg was already waiting with his magical boat and brought the party back to the society. Within a couple days, Themberchaud arrived as well, hurrying her egg to the hot springs. There was a brief ceremony as the party was inducted into the society, their deed for Themberchaud and their information on the derro cult and their obelisk serving as their qualifications. Afterwards, they were all asked to join at the hot springs as they saw another event take place – the hatching of Themberchaud’s egg.

Now officially dedicated protectors of the Underdark, the party took some time to rest and ready themselves in the safety of the society’s headquarters, preparing for their next move.

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Sloobludop

The party arrived at the kuo-toa city of Sloobludop aboard Sloopidoop magical boat, arriving near the docks where the more friendly members of the city could be found. He led the party to the hut of Ploopploopeen, the arch-priest of the fish goddess Blibdoolpoolp, the Sea Mother. The kuo-toa, lacking anything in the way or what would be considered normal social graces, immediately launched into a proposition for the party – kill his heretical daughter Bloppblippodd and destroy her blasphemous cult to the Sea Father, Leemooggoogoon.

After a brief debate over the morality of getting involved in the religious schisms of a theocratic society, the party was eventually persuaded by Ploop’s offers of reward, the fishman apparently aware of the mercenary nature of the surfacers. After a feast of mostly raw fish bits to cement their friendship, Ploop revealed his plan to the party. They would appear to be his captives, a peace offering to his daughter’s heretical cult. They needn’t worry because the cult was so sure of their supremacy and having the favor of their god that they wouldn’t even care if the party was still armed, the thought of them attacking being nearly unfathomable.

Brought before the shrine of the false god, an idol consisting of two octopuses lashed together over a manta ray, the party was presented to Blopp as a sacrificial peace offering, which she eagerly accepted with a lot of prayers and gesticulating, instructing her guards to add them to the existing sacrifice of a badly beaten duergar, centering them around a metal grate draining into the lake itself.

After much chanting and prayers, the duergar had his throat slit by one of the guards, his blood draining down the grate and pouring into the Darklake. This was apparently the cue to attack as Ploop and his guards launched their assult on Blopp and her’s. The party followed suit and attacked the guards surrounding them, not wanting to find out who the blood was meant for down the lake.

Unfortunately for the party, they didn’t have to wait long to find out anyway. A bloody foam began to appear at the lake shore as a swarm of ixitxachitl, demonic manta rays, began attacking and consuming any kuo-toa that went too close to the shore. The fighting and feasting was then wholly interrupted by an ear-shattering and utterly inhuman howl followed by a bestial monstrosity emerging from the lake – the Deep Father, Leemooggoogoon himself, better known by his true name of Demogorgon, the Prince of Demons, made his presence known to the Darklake if not the whole of the Underdark.

The demon lumbered forward from the middle of the Darklake, his huge form becoming all that more imposing the closer he got. Rather than wait for him to give them a closer look, the party instead left the scene, Sloop and Shuushar joining their egress. Making a quick stop at Ploop’s hut to get their treasure, they made their way to Sloop’s boat and left the city behind them, watching its lights fade in the distance as the roars of the demon lord filled the cavern.

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Shipwreck

The following morning, Rikaen announced to the group that he was leaving for Gracklstugh and would not be going with the rest of the way to Sloobludop. Despite some mild pleas to stay, he was determined to head to the dwarven city and had little interest in visiting the home of the fish men.

The rest of the party, after a breakfast of fish and mushrooms, got ready to depart with Sloopidoop. Being unable to swim like the fish proved to be little issue as he pulled a small wooden box from his backpack, the box unfurling into a long keelboat easily able to carry the whole party.

Given the lack of air current across the cavern of the Darklake, the sailing was rather smooth if not actually sailing as Sloop’s invisible servants powered the ship by rowing its four sets of oars. The water was still and clear but dark as the rest of the cavern, the lights from the ship only penetrating so far before scattering. Reaching out his mind to see if they were truly as along as they seemed, Artorius felt a variety of strange presences though nothing seemed overtly threatening. It seemed like it would be a calm voyage for once.

A couple days into the trip, the watchers on the overnight shift noticed a shipwreck ahead. After Sloop investigated underwater, it looked like it was abandoned after effectively running aground on a large stalagmite jutting up from the bottom of the lake. Curious as ever, the group decided to investigate the shipwreck, the stronger swimmers of the group setting up a line for those less adept in the water.

Once aboard, it was apparent that the ship was dwarven in design, most likely duergar as a surface dwarf ship upon the Darklake was all but unheard of. The ship was far less deserted than it first seemed though as before anyone was able to search below deck they were attacked by the lake itself, a massive wave rolling over the ship and knocking Silaria being swept overboard with it. The water then rose out of the lake, taking on a vague shape as it began pummeling those still on the deck. Artorius managed to use his unusual arm to pull Silaria back aboard while Namie cast an illusion to easily deceive the water elemental into believing it was trapped.

Thrashing against its illusory bindings as it was being assaulted by the party, the elemental eventually broke free and crashed upon the deck again, swiping Namie away this time. Fortunately for the wizard, her divinations had revealed a flash of insight about this very instance and she was able to escape the elemental’s grasp before trapping it in another illusion. This time, the creature wasn’t able to escape and it was destroyed by the party, sinking back into the depths from whence it came.

Now able to explore the ship fully, the party found that it was abandoned and apparently all hands had survived or been dragged to the depths as there were no signs of remains. The cargo had however been left behind though it was largely impossible to retrieve as it was piles of unrefined iron ore. They were able to recover a chest though which once the locked had been picked, was found to be full of gold coins with an unusual, rubbery cloak laying on the bottom. The cloak was definitely magical and identified as a Cloak of the Manta Ray which Artorius donned to explore the waters below along with Silaria in animal form, recalling that elementals are often guardians summoned to protect a specific location and rarely appeared somewhere by accident.

Artorius’ knowledge proved to be accurate as he found a cave entrance into the stalagmite under the surface of the water. Inside, a tunnel spiraled down nearly a hundred feet before opening into a circular chamber. On the far side of the room was a simple altar carved directly from the stone. Looming over it was a statue of a humanoid with the arms and head of a praying mantis, its mutli-faceted eyes studded with jewels. Artorius recognized this as a shrine to the dead god Jergal, formerly the god of knowledge, specifically forbidden knowledge and secrets. Drawn to the alter like a moth to the flame, Artorius touched the statue and receive a flash of insight into what may lay ahead or what may lay beyond, it was hard to say for sure, but it left a lasting impression on him as he emerged with an expanded awareness of the world. Silaria too reached out her mind to the knowledge left behind by the dead god and too found herself more awake for it.

Returning to the others, Artorius informed them of what he found. Curious and studious as she is, Namie borrowed the cloak and dove to the temple below. Comfortable and used to receiving flashes of insight from beyond the veil of this world, she too was able to glean some useful information from the flashes of insight received from the altar. Last but not least, Alfh was drawn to the altar as well, though the flashes he received were a bit more chaotic than those of the others and he wasn’t able to quite sort through the images. Perhaps he would be able to someday, but for now, it left his mind focused elsewhere, particularly on his greatness and how the rest of the group seemed to be holding him back a bit from achieving it…

The rest of the trip across the lake proved as uneventful as the first part and soon the smell of fish and smoke announced the presence of Sloobludop, the party finally arriving at the the fishmen’s capitol to find out what was truly going on with the cultists threatening to overthrow the relative peace of the city.

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Dwarven Ruins and Other Environs

The party was awakened by the scent of breakfast cooking, not from one of their own but from something outside of the tomb. Being able to sneak out of the tomb and look around without having to open the door, Silaria transformed herself into a small spider and went to see who was waiting for them. Surprisingly, it didn’t appear to be anything particularly sinister but was instead a portly kuo-toa cooking a couple small fish over a spit.

Confident that they wouldn’t be assaulted as soon as they opened the door, the group left the tomb and greeted their new acquaintance. The fishman introduced himself as Sloopidoop, Sloop for short, a member of The Society of Brilliance. He had heard of the group from Grazilaxx and, confident in their prowess and desire to unearth the mysteries of the demons appearing in the Underdark, beseeched the illithid to guide him to the group’s location.

After introductions (and informing them they were going the completely wrong way to find the fungus groom-to-be Araumycos), Sloop proposed that they all accompany him to the kuo-toan town of Sloobludop. Some disturbing events had been taking place in his hometown, namely the daughter of one of their head priests had begun preaching a new god – Leemooggoogoon, the Deep Father, a stark heresy against their goddess of Blibdoolvpoolp, the Sea Mother. Being far more learned than the average kuo-toa, this especially worried Sloop as he believed this so-called Deep Father was actually a mispronunciation of Demogorgon, the description of the creature and its sudden appearance being to fitting to be a coincidence. The party agreed, especially since they now knew they were not heading in the right direction, and departed with Sloop for the Darklake and the town beyond.

The trip was rather easygoing for the first few days until they ran into an odd obstacle – a sheer cliff rising nearly forty feet up. That wasn’t too unusual in and of itself, but what was unusual was the rope ladder already attached to it but rolled up at the top. Nevertheless, it proved to be of little challenge for the group as The Bloodhorn easily scaled the cliff and dropped the ladder down to the rest of the party. A new obstacle presented itself though as Topsy and Turvy revealed their secret illness to Artorius – they were wererats, and based on how much they were starting to itch, it was about time for them to transform. The party agreed, pulled up the rope ladder, and left the brothers to their fate for a few days.

While waiting, the party was attacked by an insane duergar, shouting insane ramblings about things being unclean. Refusing to back down or even really acknowledge the party’s parley, the dwarf was slain. That was when they realized he wasn’t quite dead, and wasn’t quite a dwarf, as something continued wriggling under his skin. The dwarf’s neck was cut open and revealed the source of his madness – an illithid larva attached to and slowly consuming his brain. Had it been left alone, the larva would have eventually turned him into a new mind flayer, but it was instead placed into a heavy lead box and kept for future study by Sloop.

Once the twins had returned, the party continued on. Unfortunately, the geological instability that had likely caused the cliff to form also caused some severe tremors before ripping open a lava flow. Losing their footing, Ront and Sarith fell in, the molten rock consuming them. Fortunately, Sarith had enough of his wits about him to toss Stool to safety, the sprout bouncing to safely away. Spending only a moment to mourn (or less than, the orc and drow weren’t particularly popular amongst the group), the party left the fiery grave behind, Namie now carrying Stool with her.

Further ahead, their tunnel began to fill with spiderwebs, much more dense in the smaller tunnel than it was in the Sliken Paths. Fortunately, these webs could be cut through and the path cleared. Inside the webs, they found someone else who had tried to the same thing but had gotten stuck, a male drow named Rikaen Shobalar. He was attempting to head to Gracklstugh after escaping Menzoberranzan and the unpleasantness that is general drow society but had gotten entangled in the webs. Appearing to be a competent warrior despite this incident, the party agreed to take him along to the Darklake and he was more than willing to travel with a group rather than alone.

The fissures had apparently done more than just create the lava flow and the cliff face as further ahead an open crack revealed the entrance to an ancient dwarven stronghold, at least 1,000 years old according to Eldeth‘s interpretation of the dwarvish script on the massive bronze doors. The inside of the outpost had seen better days as much of it was collapsed and the rest pretty thoroughly looted. The fort wasn’t entirely uninhabited though as the residents of the barracks were still present – a dozen dwarf zombies animating as the party’s lights shone upon them. The centuries of necromantic energy suffusing them made their undead forms extremely resilient, but between Bloodstone’s thunderous swings, Alfh‘s radiant magic, and Namie wielding Dawnbringer, the zombies were eventually turned from whence they came. In true adventurer fashion, the party set about searching the room, Jimjar betting that there wouldn’t be anything left. Reluctantly, he turned over a silver piece to Artorius as he was proven wrong, finding an Amulet of Dwarven Constitution in a hidden compartment.

Leaving the ruin, the group traveled the rest of the way to the Darklake without incident, camping upon its shores as they were about to approach the final leg of their journey to Sloobludop.

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The Lost Tomb of Khaem

The party, once again accompanied by Stool, set out into the Underdark once more, intent on finding the great fungus Araumycos to see what its true involvement was with the demon lord Zuggtmoy.

Their path didn’t lead them very far from the Neverlight Grove before they reached a cavern known as the Silken Paths, a massive ravine nearly five miles across and half as wide choked through with the webs of hundreds of giant spiders. Curiously, at the edge of this horrible place, they found a pleasant campsite with a fire still burning, obviously recently inhabited by two small individuals.

The owners of the camp soon made themselves known as shrieks of exhilaration came riding down the spiderwebs with a lantern light guiding their way. The source of it came tumbling into sight, two disparate looking goblins wearing clear goggles and thick gloves and socks coated in oil. The shorter, fatter of the duo removed the accoutrements and introduced himself and his taller brother as Yuk Yuk and Spiderbait. Yuk Yuk was surprisingly urbane for a goblin, proving that he was fluent in at least his own tongue as well as the common tongue from both above and below the surface. Spiderbait, on the other hand, barely spoke at all and, when he did, he only spoke in the goblin tongue, though he appeared to understand what the others were saying at most times.

The goblins were scavengers who made their living taking what they could from the spiders’ kills – food, treasure, whatever may have fallen into the webs. They also made a decent amount of coin off guiding people through the webs to the other side. The paths were treacherous, winding and confusing strands of varying sized spider silk that could support the weight of a wagon or collapse beneath a gnome’s feet depending on their age. Given this, the party decided it was in their best interest to hire them, giving them one of the diamonds they received from the myconids as well as a few extra coins.

The goblins proved to be worth the coin as they effortlessly yet cautiously guided the party through the webs, avoiding any weakened or damaged strands and, even more importantly, avoiding the spiders. At about the halfway point, the more keen-eared members of the group heard the muffled cries of someone seeking help. Feeling altruistic amongst the more indifferent members of their group, a few of the party split off, led by Spiderbait, towards the source of the noise.

The party found a large cocoon of spiderweb with a very unfortunate, or now fortunate, halfling trapped inside. He introduced himself as Fargas Rumblefoot, an adventurer who was travelling with a group to find the lost tomb of the ancient Netherese wizard Khaem. In thanks for saving him, he led the party to his belongings to find his map to the tomb so that they might get some of the treasure that his ill-fated group failed to acquire.

With Spiderbait’s aid, they found the halfling’s lost belongings fairly easily, along with a treasure chest that one of the spider’s must have acquired as well. Unfortunately, the group wasn’t particularly experienced at the normal adventuring life of dungeon crawling and didn’t bother to search the chest before opening it. Luckily, the chest wasn’t trapped, though luck soon ran out as the chest turned out to be a mimic. The best was slain, though it nearly ate Fargas in the process, and the map was recovered.

Overlaying Fargas’ map with Artorius’ revealed that the halfling and his party were tantalizingly close to the tomb when they were captured by the spiders. Returning to Yuk Yuk and the rest of the party, they continued on through the webs, the goblins graciously waiving the fee for the new traveler. Once clear of the webs, they collected payment and sent the party on their way

The tomb itself was less than a day’s travel away. According to the information that Fargas and his party had come across, the tomb had once been part of a floating Netherese city. When the empire fell, the tomb had fallen into a crevasse that placed it into the Underdark, now underneath a lake on the surface. As the group approached the tomb, they heard a surprisingly sweet, feminine voice calling out into their minds, asking them to free it from the darkness.

Unworried by the psychic voice, the party ventured in to the tomb, leaving most of the group outside to keep watch (and because they would prefer not to enter the creepy talking tomb of an ancient witch queen). The tomb itself proved to be relatively small, the walls covered in weather frescoes depicting society in ancient Netheril. The first room the party entered off the main hall contained one large sarcophagus that appeared to be made of incredibly dense stone. This turned out to be in appearance only as when The Bloodhorn attempted to lift it it simply flew off. That was when a booming voice echoed through the camber, “You have disturbed the tomb of Brysis of Khaem! Accursed are you, most miserable of creatures!” The voice was followed by a wave of psychic energy which most of the party shook off, all except The Bloodhorn. Fortunately, the magic users in the group were able to recognize the effect as a curse, and even more fortunately, they happened to have a scroll of remove curse amongst their possessions and were able to cure the minotaur.

The party found a room with four sarcophagi, each bearing the likeness of a simple Netherese woman. The party, again not entirely used to the dangers of a traditional dungeon, opened the tombs and unleashed four specters of the ancient dead. Their combined might and magic was enough to dispatched the ghosts without serious harm befalling them and they were able to acquire what loot there was to be had, mostly old jewelry and metalworks.

Not satisfied that this was the extent of what the tomb had to offer, Fargas set about searching the area for something hidden while the rest of the party took some time to rest. He turned out to be correct as one of the sarcophagi had a false bottom that led to a staircase that went over 100 feet below their current position. At the bottom of the stairs was the true tomb of Brysis of Khaem, a gilded sarcophagus standing atop a bier bearing the image of a female in rich robes. As soon as the grave was opened, the wraith of the ghost emerged, shrieking as it launched into an attack against the party, promising them death and her own freedom. The years had withered the sorceress’ power though and her spirit was not as potent as it once was and, though she managed to drain some life force from the party, it was not enough to full restore her and her spirit was destroyed.

Inside her tomb, they found the source of the voice speaking into their minds. A sword hilt, warm to the touch and appearing to be made of wrought gold with a brilliant ruby embedded into the hilt, spoke to the party again, or more specifically to Namie, pleading to be taken from the darkness. After meditating on the blade, Namie was able to reveal its full power and call forth a brilliant blade of shining sunlight. The sword, an intelligent weapon from a time even before Netheril, called itself Dawnbringer and became immediately attached to the wizard who now wielded it. Beyond the blade, the tomb contained hundreds of coins, a necklace of fireballs, a philter of love, and a healing potion.

After gathering and sorting the loot, the party went back to the entrance to gather the rest of their group. They decided that now that the ghosts were gone, the tomb, with its defensible door and no other entrances, was probably one of the safest places they could stop to rest while they decided their next course of action.

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The Neverlight Grove

Before the group could reach the respite promised by Stool in the protection of his homeland, they had to continue through the tunnels lined with increasingly dense and strange fungi. It wasn’t until they nearly reached the grove that they encountered an inhabitant of the region, not a myconid, but something entirely different. From behind a glowing patch of luminescent mushrooms, two enormous eyes stared at them, unblinking and mostly unmoving, though they did tend to settle on the unusual book Arotrius carried with him.

When confronted, they hissed a telepathic warning to the party – beware the things that lurk in the darkness, you are not safe. As the creature scampered away, it was revealed to actually be two nothics, one-eyed monstrosities born of wizards deformed by delving too deep into the secrets they were not meant to know.

Unsettled by the warning but continuing nonetheless, the party reached the Neverlight Grove. A hidden enchanted place, strangely alien but serenely beautiful, the grove had a mushroom forest that covered every surface – including the ceiling – and was illuminated by the brilliant colorful bioluminescent patterns of the fungi. On the other side of this exotic forest, the party was able to catch a glimpse of a majestic mushroom tower, though the poor light and rising mist made it impossible to discern its details.

Excitedly, Stool led the party to a large pool where dozens of myconids were gather. He introduced them all to his leaders, the Myconid Sovereigns Basidia and Phylo. Basidia did not immediately communicate but Phylo was incredibly welcoming, claiming that “the day of joy is nigh!” and exhorting others to “rejoice in the true union that will meld us all!” More curiously, while referring to something known as “the Great Seeder,” Phylo referred to it as a “she,” which, to anyone familiar with myconids, would know as unusual as they normally have no concept of gender in their own or other species.

After an introduction, Phylo left with Stool to reintroduce it to the rest of the sprouts. Once Phylo was gone, Basidia offered to take the party on a tour around the grove, though it clearly had intentions beyond being a simple guide. As they traveled through the various circles of myconid society, Basidia introduced the party to their Myconid Circle Leaders, detailing the political leanings of each in the conflict between it and Phylo. As Basidia explained, myconid typically only have one sovereign at a time, and they did up until Phylo showed up with ideas of the Great Seeder and swayed a good portion of the people to its side. Basidia brushed aside concerns from the other leaders that it simply didn’t like sharing rulership and was vehement that there was something influencing Phylo and its “Circle of Masters” that had been established upon its arrival.

To that end, he offered the party the treasure left behind by a group of surfacers who had recently come to the grove but vanished once they attempted to venture to Yggmorgus, the mushroom tower on the far side of the grove. The party agreed and head to the pleasantly named Garden of Welcome. Unfortunately, it turned out to be more of a garden of horrors as they were greeted by a low muttering that turned into a symphony of moans, crises, and hisses, culminating in the voice of female drow emerging from a pile of rot and growing mushrooms, several of which were growing from her body. “Please… for your gods of light… kill me,” she pleaded. “The Great Seeder… trap… she’s here… the Lady of Decay… ”/characters/zuggtmoy" class=“wiki-content-link”>Zuggtmoy."

Silaria took it upon herself to fulfill the drow’s wish and set upon her with her blade. It wasn’t until it was too late that she noticed the other two drow in the pile that animated to a rigid semblance of life, the spores sprouting from their body seeming to control their movements. As the drow rose, an aberrant creature emerged from the tower, a mix of myconid and some sort of larval slug. The creature greeted the party in a horrible, echoing voice, asking if they were there for the wedding rehearsal. Not waiting for a response, it launched an attack, spraying a gout of acid that the party, before its two myconid bodyguards joined the animate drow in the assault.

The party prevailed in the battle, suffering a few acid burns from exploding drow for their troubles, but not too worse for wear. Before they could truly catch their breath, the party was greeted by the spill of echoes from the tower, a cacophony of wheezing voices that wrapped together like some kind of discordant music. Through the mist, a parade of creatures emerged, their bodies vaguely humanoid with clusters of of luminescent lichen and tumescent growths forming chaotic patterns on their decaying flesh. Their horrendous voices reached to a crescendo as their chanted a song, both insane and gleeful in equal parts:

From rocky bed the toadstool rose
From chaos dark, her love She shows
Wish! Yearn! Laugh!
The Lady will be wed!
Crave! Hunger! Dance!
Her joyous spores will spread!
Youth is gone, beauty rots,
Araumycos and Zuggtmoy!
Joined together, heart to heart,
Becoming one ’til death do part!
Hail! Hail! Hail!

Rather than confront the horde of creatures, the party hid, observing the mock ceremony of the menagerie performing a wedding. Rather than sticking around for the reception, the party headed back down to the grove to meet with Basidia and relay what they found. This only confirmed Basidia’s fears and steeled its resolved in reuniting the myconid of the Neverlight Grove and to expunge the foul influence of the demon queen.

True to its word, Basidia gave the party the loot from the poor drow, of which included a magic sword, some armor, a bag of holding, some potions, and a variety of gems and coinage. Rather than trying to confront a ruler of the Abyss, the party instead decided to find her intended, the sapient mega-fungus Araumycos, to find out what his side of things were and, if need be, to try stopping their wedding.

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Through the Darkness

The prisoners left Velkynvelve through the northern tunnel as it was the closest to their cell and the easiest to escape through while avoiding both the drow and the demons. They fled as swiftly as their feet would carry them, not stopping for nearly an entire day, not resting until they felt they were far enough away from any pursuers to rest even slightly comfortably.

After their rest, Sarith informed the party that they were, rather unfortunately, presently on the path to Menzoberranzan, the City of Spiders and one of the main cities of the drow. Jimjar suggested they all make their way to Blingdenstone as it was in the same direction, tough on the other side of Menzoberranzan so they would have to try navigating around the city. Ultimately, the group decided to follow the pleas of the myconid Stool to go to his homeland of the Neverlight Grove, promising that his people will be grateful and offer aid and that his sovereign is wise in the hidden ways of the Underdark and may know how they can get home to the surface. In order to get there, they would need to follow Shuushar‘s directions to the Darklake and follow Sarith’s directions to the grove from there. With a destination now set, they headed into the darkness.

Travel through the Underdark proved to be arduous and exhausting but overall less dangerous than its reputation would indicate. Luckily, only a few days out of Velkynvelve, Eldeth and Silaria were able to find three barrelstalks, large, edible mushrooms that store water in their stout stalks.

It wasn’t until the group was traversing a wide but short tunnel that they encountered their first of the Underdark’s more monstrous denizens – a rocktopus. Disguised as a stalactite, it lashed with it’s tentacles, battering Eldeth to the ground rather quickly but losing a tentacle in the process. As the beast was nearly felled by the blades and magic of the group, it sprayed a cloud of misty ink and beat a hasty retreat, softly and swiftly plodding off into the distance.

Continuing along the long trip, Eldeth and Silaria continued to forage for the group, finding the disgusting-smelling but surprisingly tasty and meat-like fungus known as ripplebark and several stalks of the wood-like but still edible zurkhwood. Across underground rivers, through steam vents, and over rope bridges they went, using the terrain and magic to disguise their trail from Ilvara Mizzrym and her cadre of pursuers.

More interesting than mushrooms, the group came across the deep gnome siblings Glibdo, Himha, and Felder, traders from Blingdenstone on their way to Gracklstugh, as they were setting up camp. Originally apprehensive and brandishing strange weapons, metal tubes attached to a hilt similar to a crossbow, the gnomes recognized the group as the prisoners that escaped from the drow. Fortunately for them, svirfneblin have no love of the drow and had no intention of turning the party over to them. They engaged in a little trading before everyone camped together then went their separate ways in the morning.

As the travel continued, a strange muttering began to follow the party. It came to a crescendo of inhuman babbling and distant buzzing which caused half the group to drop into a catatonic state, laying motionless on the cave floor. They were only unconscious for a few minutes before coming to, having faint memories of some terrible noise at the edge of hearing, but it was little beyond a waking dream.

Perhaps the sources of the unusual phenomenon, further ahead the group encountered one of the most notable and unusual features of the Underdark – a faerzress, crystals that emit a strange radiation that disrupt magic and can cause harm to living creatures. Amongst the crystals they found another notable feature of the Underdark – an illithid, more commonly known as mind flayers for their psychic abilities. Fortunately for the party, he did not seem to be interested in eating their brains or turning them into his thralls. Instead, he was rather pleasant, introducing himself telepathically as Grazilaxx, a member of The Society of Brilliance, a group of Underdark denizens out to solve the mysteries of their home to better all who dwell there. He was a pleasant conversationalist, albeit an entirely telepathic one, and told the party that he was investigating the faerzress specifically because of rumblings the Society had heard about a demonic incursion into the Underdark. Once he heard the party’s story, his theory seemed to be confirmed.

Fearing the radiation, the party decided to head out sooner rather than later, all except Artorius whose curiosity got the better of him as he stayed behind to experience the faerzress. As the party neared the Neverlight Grove, Artorius caught back up to them and revealed the effects of his “research” – his arm had mutated to nearly double the length with no rigidity to it, a strange tentacle appendage still capped with his flaccid hand on the end. This seemed to perturb some of the prisoners but less than one would think – perhaps they were already getting used to the Underdark.

The tunnels ahead began to become more frequently dotted with fungus, some hanging heavy like drapes through the passages and others glowing in a myriad of muted colors. The Neverlight Grove was close, and with it, hopefully a much needed respite and a way home.

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Escape from Velkynvelve

Captured by the drow! You wouldn’t wish this fate upon anyone, yet here you are – locked in a dark ave, the cold, heavy weight of metal tight around your throat and wrists. You are not alone. Other prisoners are trapped in here with you, in an underground outpost far from the light of the sun.

Your captors include a cruel drow priestess who calls herself Mistress Ilvara of House Mizzrym. Over the past several days, you’ve met her several times, robed in sliken garments and flanked by two male drow, one of whom has a mass of scars along one side of his face and neck.

Misstress Ilvara likes to impress her will with scourge in hand and remind you that your life now belongs to her. “Accept your fate, learn to obey, and you may survive.” Her words echo in your memory, even a you plot your escape.

Over the next few days, you and your fellow prisoners managed to scavenge a few items while doing hard labor around the prison camp that may be helpful in your escape attempt – a gold coin, a piece of rope, some cutlery, and a crossbow bolt coated in drow poison.

While lined up for food, you receive a subtle message from the drow guard with the disfigured face known as Jorlan Duskryn“If I could give you a means to escape from here, would you take it?” With an affirmative answer, he lets you know that he will leave the gate open tomorrow night. After that, you’re on your own.

That night, your sleep is troubled and fitful, filled with strange dreams and disturbing images. Dark shadows seem to move and reach out toward the as you wander lost through endless mazes of tunnels. Oily tentacles slide to brush up against you, while a great buzzing and howling rises in the distance. Suppurating wounds burst open in clouds of spores or crawling masses of maggots or insects. You awake in a cold sweat from these nightmares, feeling as though somethings out t here in the dark depths – something far worse than the drow.

During the next guard change, just before Jorlan was supposed to leave the gate open, you hear a horrible droning buzz echoing through the cavern, followed by inhuman shrieking. Alarms sound as you and your fellow prisoners take matters into your own hands and batter down the gate. Just as you’re breaking free, an injured Jorlan limps up to the gate. “Get of here! We’re under attack, now is your best chance!” The wounded drow fled off into the cavern, leaving the characters to their fate.

Feeling across the rope bridges to the rooms carved into the stalactites, the prisoners found a storage room filled with their confiscated equipment. While fleeing the cavern, they found the cause of the disturbance – a swirling flock of vulture-humanoid demons known as vrock. As they nearly escaped, one of the beasts crashed onto the path in front of them but was already rather wounded and was quickly dispatched by the cooperation of the fleeing prisoners.

Now free from prison and the outpost known as Velkynvelve you and the other prisoners are forced to strike out into the Underdark with no food, no idea where you are, and even less idea how to get home.

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