22 Harvest 508
Surm emerges from the Overlord’s hall, smiling, and rejoins his friends.
“You get what we needed?” Savaric asks.
“Well, the red Orb is currently held by a Drow elf woman named, Berithrian Illithys, Matron of House Illithys, Orb-Bearer. She is very ill tempered and has a very low opinion of Humans and males in particular. However, I don’t have a location. I know Drow dwell in underground cities, but nothing to help us locate this Drow. I think we should visit the elf sage at the University to try and get a lead," Surm says.
“Once we get that orb, can you locate the rest of them?” Mõrvar asks.
“One orb can be used to communicate with another, but only if its bearer is near. Even then, you only see the possessor’s face, not surroundings. In this case, she announced her name and title and expressed great displeasure at being spoken to as an equal by a human and even more so by a ‘weak-willed male’. The name and the fact that she is a Drow is all we have to go on right now. That’s why I suggested meeting with the sage specializing in elves, maybe we can get a clue as to the location of Drow settlements near that tower in Yulania. I suspect the elf Alundriel and his lieutenants were taken by the Drow. If so, there may be an entrance near his encampment, perhaps within the Rift itself since his camp was near the edge,” Surm says.
The Chancellor says that he will be happy to take them to the office of Belurien Springstorm, an elven sage who studies history and is their liaison to the Saelfsidhedai.
As they make their way to the carriage, Mõrvar whispers to his companions, “Our goal is to eventually obtain all 8 Orbs, right?”
Savaric says, “Well there are 10 orbs, but no, I was under the impression that we were pursuing the other objects that are described in the obelisk.”
“Yes, we are currently on task for that, but down the road, eventually shouldn’t we think about pursuing and collecting all 10 orbs? Maybe not anytime soon, maybe years from now, but wouldn’t that be pretty cool, to collect them all?” Mõrvar asks.
Surm says, “Except that having ever owned an orb makes all dragons hate you. Seems like pretty powerful enemies to make. That means we should be careful not to touch the red orb when we find it, just pack it and deliver it. Let’s get to the sage and see if we even have a chance of finding it.”
Rilka nods. “We may need to obtain a special carrying case for it before we leave Kalimsport.”
As the carriage is being brought around to take you back to the University, the Chancellor says, “I don’t think you fully appreciate the power—and danger—of the object for which you seek. Otherwise you would not bring up such a foolhardy idea. Further, as per our agreement, the University will not be assisting such an endeavor—at least not without the requisite compensation.”
Surm shares his knowledge of the Drow: “The Drow are a race of dark-elves that live in the Underground realms. They take members of other races and enslave them. They are also very antagonistic, not just toward the surface races, but to their cousins, the elves, especially. The upper echelon of any Drow settlement, underground village, or grand metropolis is uniformly female. In larger cities, Drow matrons head great houses that serve as both centers for their families and power nexuses. These matrons are often clerics or wizards, as are their cadres of advisors. Regiments of trained Drow warriors serve each house and its matron.”
“It looks like we’ll have our work cut out for us then," Rilka says. “On a side note, how long were we planning to stay in Kalimsport? I had some custom-order work I wanted to get started.”
“I suggest a bag of concealment,” Mõrvar says. “We could use the orbs to make allies with Dragons by trade negotiation?”
Savaric says, “Even if we tried it with a metallic dragon, I’m pretty sure it would be, ‘give me the orb and I won’t bite your face off’.”
Surm says, “I would like to leave once we have a clear direction to start in. If you have custom work, get it started; you know we’re coming back.”
“So is K-port our base of operations for the next 5 years?” Mõrvar asks.
“Our contract ends in 5 years. We are based in Kalimsport until we finish these quests. It may not take 5 years,” Surm says.
You all load up in the carriage and head back to the University. Once there, the Chancellor leads you to the chambers of Belurien Springstorm, sage and liaison to the Saelfsidhedai.
Belurien appears to be an elf of middle years. He has a rather pinched expression on his face—which seems to be permanent. He looks over the party and says, in only a slightly accented Tradespeak, “Yes, Chancellor, I will be glad to help, of course. What can do for you?”
After the Chancellor makes introductions, Surm gets down to business.
“Master Springstorm, as you know, we are on contract for with the University to find an artifact, a red dragon Orb. Its last known possessor was Alundriel the Renegade who disappeared from his encampment at the edge of Yulania near the Rift approximately 80 years ago. Now, according to the information we have recently uncovered, the Orb is in possession of a Drow elf woman named Berithrian Illithys, Matron of House Illithys, who titles herself Orb-Bearer. We need to find this woman, but her name and race are the only clues we have. We were hoping you may know something of the Drow and if they have a settlement near the Rift at the edge of Yulania?”
Rilka peers at the sage expectantly, trying to assess his reaction to the mention of Drow.
The elf raises a thin eyebrow. “Drow? I know something of them, yes. Every Saelfsidhedai child learns something of our dark cousins. I’ve not made a study of them, but I have some information. As far as settlements, I can recall two possibilities: Almetherocc and Ambraxaran. But you spoke of House Illithys as well.” He goes to a large book and opens it, flipping through the pages until he finds the one he is looking for. He runs a thin finger down the page and says, “Ah, yes. Illithys. That House primarily resides in Ambraxaran.”
“Where is Ambraxaran located?” Surm asks.
“The city’s precise location is unknown, but it is generally thought to be beneath the area of Tower Yenuil in southeastern Yulania,” the elf says. “Almetherocc lies further north, closer to Melnys Vale.”
Rilka pipes up, “Are the Drow often known to venture above ground? Would they employ tunnels or natural passages in the earth to do so? Or would they use magical means of transportation?”
“They have been known to venture out, looking for slaves or treasure. They could use either natural tunnels or magical means—they have many sorcerers and wizards in their number that could allow for that," the elf says.
“Sounds like investigating around beneath the area of Tower Yenuil in southeastern Yulania is the best lead we are going to get," Surm says. "Master Springstorm, is there any advice you can give on dealing with the Drow? Strengths and weaknesses? Is it a city as we know it, will travelers be welcome or will we stand out? Will we be able to roam the city or will we be arrested on sight?”
Belurien looks pensive. “Well, the city is deep underground, but otherwise much like other cities. It is ruled by a council of matrons from the great Houses and reflects their values—cunning, dark deeds, and evil. They are humanoids like you or I, so they have no weaknesses other than those that come with being such. However, they are underground dwellers—so their eyes are particularly sensitive to light. They are especially proficient spellcasters and most have some talent to use magic to hide or to obfuscate. Also, they seem to be able to resist magic to a degree. Most are also adept at the use of poison. In the city, you will not be welcome. Being ‘surface dwellers,’ you would probably be arrested and enslaved."
“If they come to the surface to collect slaves, what are the chances that we are going to be left alone in their city? Do we need to ally with someone to have their protection there, or are they going to just jump us and capture us when we show up?” Mõrvar asks.
Belurien says, “As I stated, surface-dwellers are not welcome there. If you were to arrive in Ambraxaran, I believe that chances are good that you would be set upon and enslaved. As far as making an alliance, in my opinion, there would be no other faction worth allying with to protect you. The other races that dwell there are equally as a likely to betray you and sell you to the highest bidder.”
“You mentioned that they were sensitive to light, is there some item or spells that are particularly effective against them?” Savaric asks.
Rilka comments that she does have the ability to cast light, which may be effective.
“I meant something more like a flash bang or some kind of light based spell/weapon,” Savaric says.
“Like a falchion that glows like a torch?” Rilka asks with a smile. “There are some prismatic spells, but I don’t think anyone can cast them. The alchemist class may make something similar to a flash-bang.”
“I said light-based, not hack-into-tiny-bits-based. More directly, does the sage know of an extra effective weapon/item?” Savaric asks.
“There are spells that make light as bright as sunlight,” Mõrvar says. “The 3rd level Daylight spell may help.”
Belurien says that he is neither a spell-caster nor an adventurer and thus would not care to speculate on what their strategy should be.
Mõrvar asks, “Do you know any or have heard tale of any out-casted Drow from there that we might be able to track down? Where would an outcast even go? Is there a different dialect of the elven language that the Drow speak?”
“I have not,” the elf says. “The Drow would probably execute or enslave a non-conformist and if one escaped a Drow city, then she would probably hide somewhere in the underground realms—and hide well at that. Being a pariah amongst her own people, and appearing as an enemy to others, she would not have many places to take sanctuary.”
“As far as the language question, most of the writings we have uncovered from the Drow are either in Elven or in a dialect called ‘Undercommon,’ a dialect spoken by many of the denizens of the underground realms."
“What other underground dwellers are there besides Drow that we might be able to find to help us navigate the underworld?” Mõrvar asks.
“There are many races in the underground realms (derro, ghouls, duergar, etc.), but most are as trustworthy as the Drow—which is to say, not at all. A guide would be as likely to help or sell you out. The underground realms are a highly dangerous place. However, you might consider a dwarf. They live in those realms and are a noble people. However, a dwarf would be as likely to be killed or enslaved as you would be.
However, upon further reflection, your half-Urkhani friends may be able to pass as travelers or traders and possibly not be singled out on sight. Some Orc tribes have been known to dwell underground and they are not as hated by the Drow as they are by my people—no offense is meant, of course. Merely being objective.
I do not know of a specific guide for you to follow-up with, however, that has actually been inside a Drow city. Most of what I know comes from information gleaned by captured Drow, ancient Elven texts, and the reputation they have with the Dwarven people," Belurien says.
Rilka says, “Looks like making friends with a dwarf might be a good idea then.”
Mõrvar replies looking at Savaric, “Looks like Savaric is finally going to get to be best buddies with dwarves.”
Then Mõrvar straightens up like he just had a thought. “Hey, we know some dwarves. Granted, they are the wrong direction, but perhaps they can get us in contact with or point us in the direction of dwarves who could help us with this. I am talking about the two we saved that gave me the multi-tool.”
Savaric says, “Do we think they will have any contacts that far away? I suppose anything is possible, I don’t know how tight-knit the dwarves’ society is. It seems they’d have nothing in common other than both being dwarven.”
“That’s a long way to travel in the opposite direction, it doesn’t seem practical,” Surm says.
Rilka says “Kalimsport is the largest city in the world. I’d say we have a chance of locating a dwarven adventurer who might be able to help us."
“The tower of Yenuil—what condition is it in? Is it a military fort, a town, or ruins?” Surm asks.
“The Tower of Yenuil is an active Tower of Sorcery. A community of magical practioners live there and study," the elf says.
“Is there a town for commerce where we could get supplies and lodging?” Surm asks.
The sage unrolls a map: “The town of Sayud in Kuskar is about 50 miles away, to the west of the tower. There is also a small, unnamed village shown here about eight miles from the tower.”
The party then bids good day to the sage and heads back to the University’s dormitories, where they are currently residing due to their agreement with the Chancellor. There they discuss their plans for travel. They decide to leave in 15 days due to various things that they want to get done in the city before heading out.
Mõrvar leaves and goes to have uniforms made for the guards. Savaric makes arrangements to work—teaching tracking and other survival skills to those that want the training. Rilka goes to have a new magic falchion crafted for her. Surm and Mahgnus head out and have Ornish courtier’s clothes made for Mahgnus. They also start searching for information on a dwarf with information on the Drow.
23 Harvest 508
Surm and Mahgnus get a bead on a dwarf by the name of Burkas Feldspar who claims to have faced the Drow. He usually frequents the Elixir & Prayer in the temple district of the city. The two men head in that direction to try and get some help from the dwarf.
At the Elixir & Prayer, they find the dwarf sitting at a table perusing a thin book. Surm approaches the dwarf and makes introductions. “Pop a squat,” the dwarf says and indicates the nearby chairs.
Feldspar does indeed claim to have encountered Drow in his years as a guide for the dwarven cities and other sites in the underground realms. He has heard to Ambraxaran—in fact, he’s been as far as the gates, though has never been inside. He confirms its location with the information Belurien had given the party the previous day. Surm manages to convince the dwarf to guide them to Ambraxaran—acting as a guide, and nothing else—for the some of 5 silver per day. He’ll lead them to the city, but he won’t go inside. The two shake on the deal and agree to meet up again on the 7th of Hearth.
Surm then makes arrangements to get a Necklace of Darkvision to aid him in this endeavor and then begins training at the University in speaking Undercommon.
7 Hearth 508
The Crimson Cord meets back up with Burkas Feldspar at the Elixir & Prayer. Introductions are made and it is apparent that the dwarf is put off by the half-orcs, but he seems still willing to the do the job. They discuss their plan of claiming to be merchants searching for goods that can only be found in a Drow city: alchemical Blackstar Bombs and Void Bombs. They also decide against taking the guards in with them as they may be seen as too big a threat.
Once their discussions are done, they load up and start heading out of Kalimsport toward Yulania and Kuskar.
11 Hearth 508
The party reaches the city of Rayl around noontime, but opt to circumvent the city.
14 Hearth 508
The party reaches the city of Jora, capital of Kuskar. They make camp outside of the city and go around it in the morning.
16 Hearth 508
The party reaches the large town of Sayud. Once again, they make camp and go around in the morning.
19 Hearth 508
On the Lower Iamari River, not far from where they hope to find Tower Yenuil, the party comes across a very small village. The village does appear to have an inn—it bears a sign with a black star on the door. They go inside and only a few old codgers are in the common room and a heavy-set Kuskar male is behind the bar.
“Welcome, strangers!” the man bellows as they come inside.
Surm has a conversation with the man about his sign. It is apparently the sign under which his father, Matyas, marched under in Kuskar. He is Gyorgi Matyasvan and has run the inn since his father’s passing. This village is called Qwast. It is sparsely populated and supports visitors to the Tower.
Surm wants to let whomever is in charge of the village know that they and their guards mean no harm and would like to be able to camp here while they visit the tower. Gyorgi says that he is part of a village council and that, so long as they do no harm, the guards and the party should be fine. The party orders food—a fine rabbit stew—and settles in.
Rilka has a conversation with an old codger by the name of Kaeridin. He tells her that his friend, Laral, is a groundskeeper at the Tower. He’s seen some strangeness there, but they mostly keep to themselves.
Surm strikes up a conversation with Burkas regarding the “Heart of the World”. The dwarf says he doesn’t know anything about it, but it is clear to Surm that he does but doesn’t want to talk about it. Surm finally convinces the dwarf to reveal what he knows. The element is hard as adamantine and as light as mithral. The metal is found deep, deep, in the earth. It can be crafted, by those that know how. The Heart of the World is a dwarven secret—not for outsiders.
After their conversations and dinner, the party head back to where the guards are camped and bed down for the night.
20 Hearth 508
The party leaves the entourage behind them and head the eight miles over to the Tower Yenuil. It’s a 5-story tower with a solid iron door. Surrounding the tower is a green space with grass and hedges. Behind one of the hedges, they spot an old man pruning.
Surm questions the man, confirming that he is Laral, the groundskeeper. He asks him about the inhabitants of the tower. The old man says that all of the inhabitants like their secrets and if they’ve come for information, there will probably be a cost. There are at least 10 inhabitants in the tower, but he doesn’t rightly know exactly how many there are. After more prodding, the man gives up the name of Master Bratharocc as a source of information on the Drow inside the tower—but also indicates that he studies items with magical properties and will probably want one in exchange for his assistance.
The party finally goes to the door and knocks, using a great iron knocker on the door. Almost immediately, the door opens and beautiful woman in a green ball gown stands before.
“Welcome to Tower Yenuil. How can I be of assistance?”
Surm steps forward and says that they are there to see Master Bratharocc. After a brief exchange with the woman explaining why they are here, the woman welcomes them inside, so long as their weapons are peace-tied. Once that is done, she leads them inside the Tower to a sitting room.
The room has a small bookcase, with books of Kuskar poetry and a gazetteer of the known world. She offers the guests refreshments of wine and finger-foods. Then she excuses herself to see Master Bratharocc. She returns shortly thereafter and announces that Master Bratharocc will see only one of them. Surm steps forward and the hostess escorts him out of the sitting room while the others wait.
The hostess leads Surm to a staircase leading down below the Tower. Once they reach a landing, Surm can small the musty, earthy odor of a cave. The woman says that she will do no further and offers him a torch and says that Master Bratharocc can be found further down. Surm takes the torch, not telling her that he can see in the darkness with the use of his necklace. He then descends further into the cavern.
When he gets to the foot of the stairs, a voice calls out from the darkness beyond Surm’s torchlight. “I don’t know you.” Surm peers into the darkness with his darkvision and sees a man with elven features, save for his midnight-black skin and pupiless white eyes. Surm pretends to not be able to see beyond the torchlight.
“No, we’ve never met,” he tells the Drow.
“Why have you sought me?” Bratharocc asks.
“I seek knowledge of the Drow,” Surm says.
“And what makes you think I have such information?”
“Your name was given to me,” Surm says.
The Drow chuckles, “I see.”
“Do you not have the information?” Surm asks.
“I have much information—what do you seek specifically?”
“Information on Berithrian Illithys in Ambraxaran,” Surm says.
The Drow frowns, “It appears that you have much information already.”
“Only a name and the city,” Surm says.
“And what are you willing to pay for such information?”
The two then negotiate a price—-an ‘item of power’—and Surm even manages to convince the Drow to accept his payment upon their return.
Bratharocc reveals that House Illithys rules the treasury in Ambraxaran, making it a very powerful House. He believes that the party’s cover story will work to get them inside. Once inside, he advises that they seek out a half-elf by the name of Pravenel at an inn called the Crimson Stain in the Pits district of the city. The city is made up of three layers—the upper echelon where the ruling Houses live, the middle market portion, and the lower Pits—where the outlanders and outcasts reside. Pravenel may help them because he hates House Illithys. Plus he’s very resourceful—he’s had to be to survive as a half-elf. Members of House Da’Reth may also help—all the Houses would see Illithys fall, but Da’Reth especially and they may even help outsiders bring her down.
He further advises that they have a female with them—a woman will gain more respect from the Drow than a male. He also talks about the family of Berithrian Illithys. She has two daughters—Imrith and Berg’inyon. Imrith is a demonic champion of the dark power that all Drow venerate. It is best not named, Bratharocc says. Berg’inyon is a known poisoner and murderer for the House. The Matron has two consorts as well as a House Priest.
It is clear to Surm that Bratharocc is bitter and wants House Illithys brought down for personal reasons. He thanks the Drow for the information and makes his way out of the cavern.
Meanwhile, Mõrvar has been trying to charm the hostess, whose name is Isold. He seems to have some success—but then again, the hostess is charming to everyone. Surm returns and gathers up his friends to head out with a fond farewell from Isold.
They ride back to Qwast and Surm reveals the details of his conversation with Bratharocc. Once they get back to the village, they decide that they will leave in the morning and leave the guards behind in Qwast.
Burkas lets the party know that there will be a mile-long tunnel underground and then 5 more miles of tunnels before they reach Ambraxaran, once they get to the entrance.
Rilka prays that night to Bruni for courage.
21 Hearth 508
That morning, the party heads out of Qwast and toward the entrance to the underground realms that Burkas is leading them toward. They take the porters and four of the guards with them to bring their horses and surplus gear back to Qwast when they get to the entrance. Kortash and Burask are equipped with a greataxe and battleaxe, respectively and given 5 platinum apiece to accompany them underground and fight if necessary.
Burkas leads the way east, past the Tower and toward The Rift.
They eventually come to an abandoned encampment. There are ruined, rotted wooden buildings and remains of structures. As they explore the encampment, a rift drake swoops down out of the sky and attacks the party. A hellacious fight ensues, but in the end, the drake falls with a mighty blow from Mõrvar—but not before Savaric is severely damaged.
Mõrvar decapitates the body and Savaric removes its teeth and nails. Burkas tells them about rift drakes—how they are vicious creatures that fly about The Riftpeaks, assaulting travelers and other prey. He then leads them to a fissure into which they can climb, sliding down its sides, into the underground realms.