21 Hearth 508
It is late in the day, though it is hard to tell in the deep darkness of the Underground Realms and the city of Ambraxaran. The party has made their way into the city and into the deepest reaches of the metropolis and to the inn called “The Crimson Stain.” After a brief discussion, they make their way inside.
The inn’s common room is much like those of inns on the surface. There is a motely assortment of underground dwellers at the tables, though. Grey-skinned duergar, a horned man that Surm identifies as a tiefling, more of the dark folk, drow—exclusively male—and Savaric and Mõrvar spot a gathering of humans around a dim candle in the back. Near that table, seemingly leading the entourage, is a half-elf with a group comprised of a half-orc, a dark folk, a cloaked figure, and small bug-eyed being that Savaric identifies as a derro—a sadistic fey creature with a penchant for human experimentation.
The party speak amongst themselves in Josslac as they find a table in the crowded common room and plot their next move. They figure the half-elf must be this Pravenel they are looking for. They just don’t know what their approach should be. They all have their cloaks up and are speaking low and in a language they hope no one here can understand. Examining the reactions of the mostly duergar servers and the other patrons of the room to the half-elf’s party, Rilka and Surm observe mostly a mixture of disdain and fear.
As the party debate their options, a young drow male dressed in a blousy shirt and tight leather pants comes up and puts his arm around Rilka. In Undercommon, he inquires if she would be interested in any entertainment tonight. Surm warns the man to remove his arm and walk away. The bristling attitude and warning do enough to get the man to remove his arm, but he inquires if any of them are interested in entertainment. Surm tells him again to walk away and the man shrugs and moves on to another table. Rilka checks her belongings, but finds everything in order.
A server comes by and inquires if they want to order. They order food and ale. Finally, Surm and Mõrvar rise and approach Pravenel’s table.
Pravenel and his companions bristle with tension as the two brothers approach and give them a “Who the fuck are you?” look. Surm introduces them and indicates that he has some business he’d like to discuss. The negotiations are rocky—Surm even drops the name of his contact at Tower Yenuil, but to no avail. Pravenel insists that they pay 5 platinum pieces for his time. Mõrvar, though unable to speak Undercommon, is visibly unhappy. Finally, Surm agrees and indicates that his companions will do the same. Rilka agrees to but Savaric opts to stay downstairs with Kortash and Burask. Pravenel’s companions, save for the derro, accompany him upstairs as well. The derro settles on top of their table and stares disconcertingly at Savaric.
As they move upstairs, Surm and Rilka recognize some of the features of the cloaked companion as belonging to a ghoul. Surm knows that some ghouls live in the underground as a race and some are highly intelligent, aspiring to various professions—including spellcasters. Surm passes this information on to his companions.
The party arrives at a suite where Pravenel takes a seat and indicates that everyone else should as well. Surm begins again to try and get the man’s attention. The mention of House Illithys does seem to get his attention—at least as far as Surm can tell. Rilka doesn’t notice this. Pravenel assumes that they are after the Orb. Surm indicates that he was told that Pravenel would be the man that could help them.
Eventually, in the course of negotiations, Pravenel does admit that he’s interested in hearing more, but not here. He knows of a safer venue to talk—a certain lotus den. He knows the proprietor there is not on the take from House Illythis. The party agrees to meet with him there.
Everyone gathers up and heads to the lotus den. The lotus den has many chambers, some large, some small, all permeated with an herbal smell and yellow smoke. Most of the chambers have various people with large hookahs smoking what is presumably lotus plants. The proprietor directs Pravenel and the rest to the rear of the edifice. There is a large chamber with a sliding divider to provide some degree of privacy. It seems a bit more isolated from the other chambers and not as inundated with the yellow fog of lotus smoke.
Once ensconced in the chamber, the party and Pravenel discuss the Orb, their resources, and what each “side” has to offer. The Orb is located somewhere in the Illithys stronghold—Pravenel does not know where. However, he does know of a way into the stronghold from beneath. The problem is that there is an adult red dragon in that passage. They eventually decide that Pravenel and his “squad” will cause a diversion of some sort while the party goes through the passage. That way, perhaps the stronghold will not be occupied by the matron and her daughters. They may still have to deal with guards and the consorts, but at least they won’t have to deal with what are, presumably, the greater threats. They finally decide to have the ghoul, Cyrus, act as their guide through the passage. He can also lead them to an escape route from the city. After the deed is done, they should go to the Naga’s Scales—a local tavern in the Pits—and order a bloody oyster. They will be taken to a back room where Pravenel will be waiting.
It will take three days to arrange a suitable distraction. in the meantime, Pravenel suggests that they stay with Nurgle. He’ll hide them in the Pits—for a price. As long as he’s paid, he’ll make sure they’re not seen. They agree. So Pravenel leads the party deeper into the Pits to a cavern with a tattered sheet over the door. He raps on the door frame and calls for Nurgle. A huge head emerges, it’s features a hideous mix of ogre and orc. The arrangements are made with the creature (two gold per night) and the party stay in Nurgle’s back room for three days. Watches are maintained each night, despite the assurances of Pravenel.
24 Hearth 508
Finally, after three long days in Nurgle’s back room, Cyrus arrives and announces in his raspy voice that the distraction is underway. “It is time,” he says. Accompanying him is the animated corpse of a leopard. He appears to be a ranger of some strange sort.
Everyone gathers their things and the cloaked ghoul leads the way through the winding streets and alleys deeper down into the Pits. Eventually, he leads them to a fissure in the side of a chamber wall and indicates that this is way to go. He and his leopard lead the way, followed by Mõrvar, Rilka, Surm, Kortash, Burask, and finally, Savaric.
When they enter the passageway, Cyrus turns to Mõrvar and says, “Be wary—the passages are not unoccupied.” Mõrvar passes the message along the line.
As they follow the passage, they come to a widening of the way. Suddenly, the air is filled with crossbow bolts and Surm is hit. Duergar appear out of thin air and begin to engage in combat. The fight, however, is brief and decisive. The party wipes the floor with the diminutive foes and loots their bodies. Then Mõrvar decapitates their corpses for reasons only known to him.
The troupe continues down the passages, making numerous turns. Surm and Savaric begin to notice webbing in passage. They bring this up to Cyrus, who doesn’t seem concerned. As the webbing gets thicker and actual spiders are spotted within it, Surm brings it up again to the ghoul, who now seems to register some concern. A dozen of the monstrous arachnids begin to drop down from the webs as Rilka ignites the web with a prayer to her deity.
A fight ensues, but the spiders are soon dispatched with little trouble. Shrieks are heard further down the passageway as the web burns away, indicating that more spiders were caught in the flames. The party continues down the passage.
Further down the corridors of the caverns, the party hears the sounds of chitinous legs striking stone—a familiar sound. It reminds Surm of those cave fishers they encountered back in the dwarven ruins. Cyrus sends his leopard ahead and ready’s his bow. Sure enough, a cave fisher is up ahead and it flicks its fibrous line at the ghoul, but misses. Cyrus fires at the creature, doing it damage, but failing to fell the beast. The leopard is largely ineffective. Mõrvar waits impatiently behind Cyrus. Finally having enough, Mõrvar overruns the ghoul and finishes off the crab-like monstrosity.
The corridors become more and more cavern-like, with stalactites and stalagmites appearing throughout the chambers. Finally, Cyrus turns into one large chambers with several large stalagmites in the room. As they pass one, Rilka realizes that something is definitely off about it—she doesn’t think it is a stalagmite. Right about that time, It opens a large maw that contains far too many teeth and six long, fibrous strands peel away from the top and start whipping about. One strand whips her and saps her strength. Another whips Savaric and saps him as well.
Everyone starts doing battle with the beast, an aberration that Surm is able to identify as a roper, as its strands start whipping about and sapping people of their strength. Mõrvar strides forward and begins to do battle with the main trunk. Its maw takes a sizeable chunk out of him, making him highly unhappy, but also making him think twice about the direct approach. Savaric gets down to this smoke arrows and starts firing those. Finally, Mõrvar runs the deadly creature through, though not before it gives everyone pause as to how to proceed from here—there is a dragon ahead, after all…