Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Trouble in Mantol-Derith" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 26

The expedition passed through the secret entrance into the underground trading post known as Mantol-Derith. They were in the bottom of a fifty-foot deep trench. A large cavern opened up above the trench. The wreckage of what was once a large platform made of crystal lay in shattered ruins ahead of them. They found mechanical spring-powered lifts near the first of two bridges that spanned the trench and took turns riding it to the top in small groups.

The cavern was large, nearly five hundred feet long and three hundred feet wide. The ceiling of the cavern varied from thirty to sixty feet and was covered with dripping stalactites. The sound of dripping water sounded like light rain as it fell upon the stone floor and dozens of tarps and tents erected in the center of the cavern. The cavern floor rose gently, creating a basin in the center. One quadrant contained a wondrous garden of usually large mushrooms and fungi around an massive mushroom the size of an oak. The cap of the gargantuan mushroom spread wide and created shelter from the gently falling rain. Another quadrant was an unkept mess of overgrowth. The next quadrant was a well-designed orchard of mushrooms the size of apple trees. The fourth quadrant contained a single large mushroom but was otherwise dominated by a large pavilion and several smaller tents.

The center of the cavern contained dozens of tents and tarpaulins, tables and stalls, like a flea market. The tents were knocked over and tables were upturned. No one was around. The place appeared to be abandoned. Banging could be heard in the distance from the quadrant concealed by overgrowth.

Suddenly, two giant-sized Duergarburst through the tents, smashing tables and knocking down anything in their path as they chased two small figures. The two figures were magically blurred, making them difficult targets. They were screaming in Undercommon, the trade language of the subterranean world, "Help! Help!"

Ser Valerius didn't have to understand the language to know that someone needed help. He drew forth his magic sword, Dawnbringer, and filled the chamber with the light of day! The giant duergar shielded their eyes as Ser Valerius and his companions charged forth into battle!


Demon-Lords have escaped from the Abyss
and are roaming free in the 
subterranean land known as the Underdark.

Five heroes unite to lead an expedition
into the depths of the Earth
to find the underground trading post 
known as Mantol Derith
so that they may learn the way
to Gravenhollow, the fabled library of the Stone Giants
where they hope to find a way to banish
the Demon-Lords back to the Infinite Abyss. 


  • Sir Valerius Adeques - (PC) human paladin and hero, defender and champion of the old gods of nature.
  • Virtue - (PC) tiefling paladin and warlock, a mysterious wild card of unknown allegiance.
  • Santaka - (NPC) a baby red dragon, loyal to Virtue.
  • Silax - (PC) Human wizard, her name will possibly change to Willow, she's still in flux. 
  • Phwee-toop - (NPC) Salix/Willow's owl familiar.
  • The Shield Guardian (NPC) - a contribution from Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn of the Harpers.
  • Ront, (PC) - orc barbarian seeking redemption for his failures.
  • Pain Grille' - (PC) halfling thief from Waterdeep, was turned to stone in Blingdenstone but got better.
Under the command of Valerius
  • Thora Nabal - (NPC)  human warrior
  • Sylrien Havennor - (NPC)  human warrior
  • Olaf Renghyi - (NPC)  human warrior
  • Elias Drako - (NPC)  human warrior
  • Tamryn Tharke - (NPC)  human warrior
Under the command of Ront
  • Brim Coppervein - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout
  • Thargus Forkbeard - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout
  • Griswalla Stonehammer - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout
Under the command of Pain
  • Nazrok Blueaxe - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
  • Kirsil Mantlehorn - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
  • Anzar the Brazen - (NPC)  dwarven warrior
  • Garganthine Truesilver - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
  • Splinter Darkmorn - (NPC)  dwarven warrior(deceased)
  • Feral Killmander - (NPC)  human spy
  • Zilna Oakshadow - (NPC)  human spy
  • Hilvius Haever - (NPC)  human spy
Under the command of Virtue
  • Nero Kelvane - (NPC)  human thug
  • Lenora Hasku - (NPC)  human thug
  • Aligor Moonwhisper - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
  • Gorath Torn - (NPC)  human thug
  • Saliyra Dalnor - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
  • Primwin Halk - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
  • Iandro Alathar - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
  • Lhytris Ilgarn - (NPC)  human thug
  • Derendil - (NPC) a qaggoth, once cursed with a false personality, now fully restored but retaining his unusual gentleness and intelligence, provisional member of the Order of Brilliance.

Valerius, Ront, Virtue, and Pain rushed to the aid of the deep gnomes. Since they didn't know what was going on, they measured their attacks and subdued the giant-sized gray dwarves. Once the duergar were defeated, the two blurry deep gnomes were joined by a third that was hiding nearby. The third carried a leather satchel. They emerged from under the upturned tables and thanked their rescuers.

They explained that the peace of Mantol-Derith had been broken. The duergar, for reasons unknown, have kidnapped a svirfneblin mage named Yantha Coaxrock and, indicating the direction of the loud banging, have laid siege to the svirnfneblin enclave. They were runners sent forth to get help to break the siege. They asked the expedition for aid!

DM NOTE- Who is Yantha Coaxrock?
The name Yantha Coaxrock was mentioned way back in the Blingdenstone chapter. She was the leader of Stoneheart Quarry but had left Nomi Pathshutter in charge during her absence. I had mentioned this way back then but there's no way the players would know this, so I reminded them.

The expedition followed the svirfneblin runners back to the enclave. The entrance to the enclave was obscured by an unkempt and overgrown fungus garden. A path led through the garden to the entrance. Four giant-sized duergar were using a zurkhwood battering ram in an attempt to bust down the heavy iron doors to the enclave.

Valerius ordered his troops to fire their crossbows at the giant duergar while he, astride his winged celestial lion mount, along with Ront and Virtue charged forward to engage them. The giant duergar turned from the door and shielded their eyes from the blazing sunlight emanating from Dawnbringer. Ront charged forward first, singling out one of the duergar with an intimidating snarl. That duergar was shaken and hesitated as his comrades charged at the oncoming attackers, meeting in the middle of the path.

Four additional duergar suddenly became visible in the tall overgrowth. They hurled javelins at the main group of the expedition then closed to engage.

The appearance of more invisible duergar forced the rearrangement of the Black-Cloaks and the forces of the Lords' Alliance. Pain moved deftly through the tall growth to attack with stealth. The mounted dwarves were ordered to move back down the paths to cover the flanks.Valerius, Ront, and Virtue fought the four duergar from the entrance while the rest of the group fired crossbows or charged into the mushroom forest to engage with the remaining duergar.

The battle was fierce but was resolved quickly and the duergar were defeated with minimal bloodshed or fatalities. Two duergar attempted to flee but Pain managed to chase down and stop one while the other was killed in a volley of crossbow bolts.

The svirfneblin runners knocked on the heavy doors and were allowed entry. The enclave was a large cube-shaped room. The walls were covered in burrow-like niches. Deep gnomes cautiously poked their heads out frightened prairie dogs. Crystal platforms magically hovered in mid-air.

The expedition was welcomed by the enclave's chief negotiator Gabble Dripskillet. Gabble recognized Ront, Virtue, and Pain as the heroes of the Battle for Blingdenstone and gave them an especially warm welcome. As a reward for their efforts, the heroes were given a crystal coffer containing a beautiful black sapphire on a silver chain. Gabble said it was a priceless heirloom of the royal dynasty that once ruled Blingdenstone. Ront accepted the gift, sniffed it, and rather insensitively asked how much it was worth.

The heroes inquired about the recent events at Mantol-Derith. Gabble did not know why the duergar suddenly attacked. All she knew was that duergar troops descended upon the marketplace, kidnapped Yantha Coaxrock, and took her  back to their enclave. The deep gnomes marshaled their forces and led an attack against the duergar enclave to rescue her. Unfortunately, the counterattack failed and the deep gnomes were routed. They were chased back to their own enclave while the duergar laid siege and tried to batter down the door.

She begged the heroes for their help in rescuing their mage! They agreed.

DM NOTE - How to Role-Play a Deep Gnome
Deep gnomes are reportedly dour serious folk with no sense of humor. When speaking in "Deep-Gnome" voice, I try to modulate my voice to sound like a munchkin but I speak in depressing monotone. 
Pan Grille'

The expedition marched through the remains of the bazaar past a lake of dark black water and made their way to the outer gates of the duergar enclave. The outer perimeter was a tall wrought-iron fence. Within the fence was a well-maintained orchard of giant mushrooms. Each mushroom was the size of an apple tree. they were arranged in orderly rows.

Virtue stepped to the front of the throng and called out in Undercommon, "I am Virtue, High Inquisitor of the Deep King."

A duergar guard appeared out of thin air. "We were not told you would be coming."

Virtue haughtily demanded information, "What is happening here? Why is the peace of Mantol-Derith broken?"

The duergar guard replied, "Apparently, a deep gnome mage stole a gemstone belonging to one of our merchants. That merchant is a good friend of our chief negotiator. They demanded its return and the mage refused. So she was taken into custody for interrogation. She's being interrogated now. The svirnfneblin attacked us in an unlawful attempt to free her! We fought them back and our warriors are assaulting their enclave even as we speak! They shall pay for their treachery!"

"I need to speak to the chief negotiator at once!" demanded Virtue.

"The chief negotiator is busy at the moment. As I said, he is interrogating the prisoner."

"That is precisely why we are here. I must speak with him immediately."

The duergar looked at the assembled throng and sniffed. He marched past the orchard and disappeared into a short tunnel. He returned a few minutes later.

"Chief Negotiator Ghuldur Flagonfist will meet with you. But you must come alone."

"Nonsense. I must be accompanied by my entourage, including my personal guards," said Virtue, indicating her colleagues.

The guard examined her "entourage". "Those two may come. But no dragon and no winged.. whatever that thing is."

"It's a celestial lion," said Valerius from atop his leonine mount.

"Whatever. No mounts and no dragons and no orcs."

Ront bared his teeth and growled.

Virtue raised her hand, "the orc must come too."

The duergar sighed, "Very well, the orc may enter. But that is all."

Virtue, Valerius, Ront, and Pain were escorted past the mushroom orchard and into the duergar enclave. The enclave was a large rectangular room with an L-shaped stone building occupying one corner. At least thirty duergar merchants and warriors were donning armor, sharpening weapons, and preparing saddles for their giant spider mounts in the main hall. The guests were escorted into the building.

The building was a warehouse filled with supplies, weapons, armor, and trade goods. A large iron safe sat in the far corner. In the other corner was a tri-lateral creature called a xorn. A female deep gnome wearing a coat covered in gemstones was suspended by a chain over the gaping maw at the top of the xorn's head. The maw kept snapping at the nervous deep gnome.

A nearby duergar held the end of the chain in his hands. The duergar sneered as he threatened to drop the deep gnome into the maw.

"Tell us where you hid Krimgols' gemstone!"

The panicked Yantha cried out, "I tell you, I don't know! A drow thief took it from me!"

Another duergar stood nearby, "You lie! Where is my gemstone?"

"Excuse us. I'm sorry to interrupt. Which one of you is the chief negotiator?" inquired Virtue.

"I am chief negotiator Ghuldur Flagonfist. We were not told you'd be coming. What business does the King's Inquisitor have in Mantol-Derith?"

"That is classified. However, it has come to my attention that the peace of Mantol-Derith has ended."

"That is correct, and this lying deep gnome witch is to blame! She stole Krimgol's gemstone and refuses to return it!"

"I told you, the drow..." cried Yantha.

"I can resolve this immediately," said Virtue confidently, "my colleague here can induce her to speak the truth. But first, I must examine her. May I?"

The two duergar looked at each other. Ghuldur shrugged, "By all means."

Virtue examined Yantha closely, searching for signs of demonic madness. The tiefling sensed the
influence of a demon. Virtue passed her hands over the deep gnome, removing the madness. She stepped aside and allowed Valerius to approach.

Valerius channeled his faith in the old gods of nature, inducing a zone of truth over everyone in the room, including Yantha, Ghuldur, and Krimgol. He opened his eyes and gazed at Yantha. He asked her, "Did you steal the gemstone?"

Yantha reflexively cried, "No! I.. the drow..." She exhaled in defeat, "Yes. Yes, I stole it."

"Why did you steal the gem?"

"I don't know. I.. I just wanted it! I had to have it so badly!"

"Where is the gem now?"

"I do not know."

"What did you do with the gem?"

"I gave it to my assistant, Flink Thunderbonk, and ordered him to hide it."

"Where is Flink?"

"I do not know."

Ghuldur smiled and said, "Well, that's all I needed to know!"

He let go of the chain and Yantha Coaxrock fell into the chomping maw of the xorn.

Virtue, Pain, and Valerius stared dumbfounded for a moment, unsure what just happened.

DM NOTE - Players: "Wait, really?"
Me: "Yes, really!"
Players: "Well, that was unexpected!"

The xorn chewed hungrily while everyone stared in horror.

Ront sprang into action and attacked the xorn. The xorn counterattacked by clawing and biting the rampaging orc.

Ghuldur immediately objected, "How dare you attack my pet!"

Virtue and Valerius drew weapons and came to Ront's defense. Pain, who had been examining the heavy safe in the corner while the duergar were distracted, stopped what he was doing and ran to help in the fight.

Ghuldur became invisible and ran out of the room. Krimgol hefted his pick and attacked Ront. Two invisible guards who had been lurking unseen appeared and attacked Ront and Pain.

Ront and Pain quickly dispatched the xorn and Krimgol while Virtue and Valerius eliminated the two guards. Virtue, Ront, and Valerius moved to defend the door. The room outside had suddenly become empty save for a few giant spider mounts.

Ront charged through the door into the empty room but was immediately beset by giant invisible duergar. One of the duergar closed the door to cut Ront off from his allies. Valerius strained to open the door but was unable to best the giant-sized warriors.

Pain ran up to the door and used his tools to remove the hinges. The door was pulled free from the doorway and Ront was pulled back into the room.

Virtue called out, "Parley! Parley!"

Ghuldur shouted, "How dare you attack my pet? What is the meaning of this unprovoked assault?"

Virtue answered, "Sorry about that! My orc colleague is easily set off. We wish to negotiate a peaceful exit."

Ghuldur inquired, "How fares Krimgol, my guards, and my pet?"

"Your xorn is dead. One of your guards is dead. Krimgol and the other guard yet live."

Ghuldur considered the situation, "What do you offer for your safe passage?"

Valerius interrupted, "You misunderstand. We rather like this place and we could use a base in the Underdark. The negotiation is for what YOU will pay US to not kill each and every one of you!"

Ghuldur was shocked. He blustered at the outrage.

Valerius held aloft the blazing sword Dawnbringer and filled the chamber with the light of the sun. "I must warn you, I'm liking this place more and more!"

Ghuldur had to shield his eyes from the light of the sword. He reevaluated his options, "Very well! I will offer you a treasure from my vault. But you also have to do something for us."

Virtue's eyes narrowed, "What?"

"Return to Krimgol his gem within one tridon."

Valerius was confused, "What's a tridon?"

Ghuldur pointed to the rotating prism, "The turning of three shifts."

Valerius was still confused. Virtue explained, "Twenty-four hours."

Ghuldur continued, "Return it within one tridon or we shall purge Mantol-Derith of every last svirfneblin. We will kill them all."

Virtue nodded, "Agreed"

Having secured their release, Ghuldur opened his magical vault and withdrew a black cloth sack. Inside the sack was what appeared to be a cantaloupe.

Dawbringer began to whisper excitedly into Valerius' mind, "Oh, I hope that is what I think it is..."

Ghuldur said, "This is an item of great magic from the Overworld. It is cursed and it is anathema to our kind. Take it and begone!"

The bag contained a crystal orb wrapped in black cloth. Valerius removed it and it glowed with the brilliance of the sun. The globe began to hover above Valerius' hand. Dawnbringer became ecstatic, "It is! It is! Yes yes yes!"

On their way out, Valerius confided in Virtue, "You know, we could have taken them."

Virtue nodded, "I know, but I didn't have all night."

The expedition regrouped and worked out their next course of action. Peebles the deep gnome with the leather satchel had apparently tagged along with the group unbidden. "So, what do we do now?"

"We have to find someone named Flunk or Flank or Flink, something like that." signed Valerius.

"Flink Thunderbonk?"

"Yes. Do you know where he is?"

"Not exactly. But the last time I saw him, about a quarter of a shift ago, he was headed over to the drow enclave."

"Then we head there.

The throng of travelers crossed the bridge over the chasm and approached the drow enclave on the opposite side of the cavern from the duergar enclave. They climbed the stairs cut into the hill and entered a lush garden of exotic fungi. It was dark yet glowing with natural phosphorescence. A large mushroom the size of an oak tree spread its great cap nearly a hundred feet in diameter, sheltering the alien scene beneath it from the dripping water falling from the ceiling.

As they crossed through the garden, the heroes spied a drow sitting on a bench. Next to the drow was a satchel filled with rolled up pieces of trillimac vellum.

The drow greeted them in Undercommon. Ront answered back, causing the drow to wince. The drow tried again in his best surface elvish. Valerius replied and the drow's suddenly showed more interest.

"Greetings, greetings travelers. You must be from the Overworld! I am pleased to meet you!"

The drow introduced himself as Zilchyn Q'Leptin. He was friendly and vigorously shook Valerius' hand, offering to be their guide in Mantol-Derith and throughout the Underdark.

"Certainly," said Valerius, "After you return the dagger you stole from me."

Q'Leptin was shocked by the accusation and emphatically denied the charge.

Valerius was firm but polite. He never touched Q'Leptin or threaten violence but he never wavered in his allegation that Q'Leption had just palmed a dagger from the paladin's scabbard.

Q'Leptin became offended and bade the travelers farewell. He took his satchel and walked away. No one stopped him. Valerius simply shrugged.

The party continued on but was interrupted by a small but insistent hiss coming from behind a nearby mushroom the size of a bush.

"Psst! Psst!"

A closer investigation revealed a young svirfneblin.

"Please help me!" whispered the deep gnome.

"Are you Frunk Thunderbottom?" inquired Valerius?

"Flink Thunderbonk!"

"Okay, sure. Come out from behind that toadstool and mingle in with us. You won't be noticed."

The deep gnome complied and the entourage formed a crowd to shield the deep gnome from view.

"I need your help. Mistress Coaxrock is in trouble!"

"Do you have the gem?" inquired Virtue.

"No, it was stolen. Wait, how did you know about the gem?"

"We've been looking for you all day."

"What's a day?"


"Oh, sorry. A gargoyle stole it!"

"A wha-? Start over. Tell us everything that happened after Mistress Coaxrock gave you the gem."

"But.. how...?"

"She told us."

"You've spoken with her? Is she safe?"

Ront and Pain uncomfortably looked away and began scratching their heads.

Virtue thought for the right words, "She's... We cured of her madness. That reminds me. Hold still."

Virtue cured Flink of any demonic madness affecting him. The deep gnome became calmer, less paranoid.

"Better?" inquired the Tiefling.

"Yes. Thankyou. Anyway, she gave me the gem to hide. I took her meaning to convey that she wished it to be invisible. So I came to the drow enclave to purchase an eyelash encased in gum tumeric."

"A material component for a spell of invisibility," said Virtue

DM Note- said Virtue's PLAYER, that is. I was very impressed!

"In any case, before I could make it here, a gargoyle swooped down and stole the gem! I'm terribly afraid that Mistress Coaxrock will punish me for losing her gemstone!"

"I wouldn't worry about that," said Virtue. Ront coughed.

"In any case, it was one of the guardians of the drow enclave. They utilize trained gargoyles, you see. I've been watching them for nearly a quarter shift trying to spot the thief but to no avail."

"Could you describe the gargoyle?" asked Valerius.

"Well, it was large, made of stone, had horns, and..."

"...and wings, and claws and a tail." said Valerius, "We know what a gargoyle looks like. What about YOUR gargoyle? Does it have any distinguishing marks?"

"Um.. not really."

"Could you identify it if you saw it?"

"Yes, absolutely."

"Right. Let's go." Valerius stood up and he and Virtue and Ront marched toward the gates to the Drow enclave.

They throng moved towards the gates made of finely carved jet. Two elite female warriors stood sentinel.

"Approach no further or I will call down my gargoyles to kill you!" Said one of the sentinels in Undercommon.

Valerius explained, in elvish, that they were seeking to find a specific gargoyle because the gargoyle in question stole a valuable gem.

"That is unlikely! And you may not inspect our gargoyles!"

"Look, we don't want to fight you, but we will if that's what it takes to inspect your gargoyles. We'll fight them and we'll kill them," warned Valerius.

The sentinel rolled her eyes, "Yes. Typical Overworlder. Your first instinct is to attack. Your reputation for violence precedes you! Why not return to your little enclave and eat your various meats and cheeses. Your rapacity and consumption is legendary throughout the Underdark. You may not see our gargoyles!"

Valerius muttered under his breath, "I think I'm beginning to really like THIS place and could use IT as a base..."

Virtue intervened, "Really, we just want to see your gargoyles. Could we offer something in trade?"

The sentinel looked at the other, then back. She hesitated for just a moment. "What do you offer?"

Virtue consulted with Ront who carried the bag of holding. Virtue produced a gem of minor value. "We offer you this gemstone."

The sentinel considered the offer and accepted, "Put the gem on the ground and back away. I will summon down three gargoyles at a time from the six on duty. If you threaten them in any way, the other three will spell your doom!"

Virtue put the gem onto the ground and the group backed away. Ront hesitated, spoiling for a fight, and had to be smacked on the back of the head before he complied.

The gargoyles landed in two groups of three.

Flink confirmed that none of the six were the gargoyle that stole the gemstone.

"Are these all your gargoyles?"

"Of course not, fool! Some are on patrol, some are resting, and yet others guard the trade delegation while they negotiate a new bargain at the Zhentarim pavilian yonder."

DM Note- The group let out a collective sigh of frustration and grabbed their foreheads.

"Thank you for your assistance." said Virtue wearily and they turned and marched to the other corner of the cavern towards the Zhentarim pavilion.

They approached the Zhentarim corner of Mantol-Derith. There was one large zurkhwood mushroom the size of a cherry tree. The rest had been cleared to make room for a large pavilion tent and several smaller tents. The heroes entered into the tent and were greeted by four drow - three elite female guards and a female mage. The guards stood ready to defend their matron.

A nearby table contained an arrangement of meats, cheeses, and wines from the Overworld.

"What is this?" demanded the mage, "You are not the Ghazrim DuLoc!"

Valerius apologized, "I am sorry to interrupt. We are searching for one of your gargoyles." He looked around and saw none.

"Gargoyles are not allowed in trade negotiations and neither are you. You must depart at once!"

"Of course." Valerius and the others withdrew. They gathered near the entrance to the Zhentarim enclave.

Virtue started to knock on the entrance to the enclave but the gate opened before her hand. The man on the other side of the door was as surprised by the guests as Virtue. He was a well dressed nobleman with slick hair and a salesman's grin. He was accompanied by an elderly Beholder, wrinkled with several eyes clouded by cataracts, and six black cloaks.


"We are travellers from the Overworld. We were sent on a mission by King Bruenor of Gauntlgrym. Part of that mission involved coming here to find Ghazrim DuLoc. I have a letter from Davra Jassur."

"I am Ghazrim DuLoc." He inspected the letter. "Ah. Gravenhollow. Yes, I know the place and I can help you. But first, I have important clients waiting for me in the pavilion." He rolled up the letter and returned it. "Please, I won't be a moment. You may wait within the enclave if you wish." He motioned to the interior behind him.

"No, thankyou. We shall wait here."

"Very well. Lorthuun, this way. We shan't keep Lady Sirak waiting."

The trade delegation proceeded into the pavilion tent. The expedition from the Overworld waited nearby.

Ront was staring towards the wall near the ceiling.

Pain asked the orc what he was doing.

"Ront sees a gargoyle. There!"

A gargoyle was perched on a ledge watching the pavilion. It kept bashfully ducking its head then looking back.

Flink verified that this was the gargoyle they sought. The gargoyle, however, did not seem to be carrying the gemstone.

Ront blinked in sudden recognition, "Ront think it has crush on someone in tent."

Pain was taken aback, "What? How can that...?"

Pain was interrupted by screams, shouts, and the sound of battle from within the Pavilion.

The heroes drew their weapons and ran towards the sounds of danger!


Monday, September 12, 2016

"The Journey to Mantol-Derith" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 25

The mid-wife presented the newborn to the proud parents. The father was a poor farmer. The mother was of stout peasant stock.

The mother cradled the bloody infant in her arms as the midwife cut the umbilical cord. "Look at him, Seamus. He's beautiful!"

"He's got a bit of a harelip." pointed out the father.

"He's perfect!" said the mother.

"I'm going to name him.. Feral."

The mother looked at him incredulously, "Are you sure, Seamus? It seems like such a... an unusual name. Won't the other children tease him?"

"I tell you this- He has a destiny. He will be no farmer. He'll grow up to become a killer of men, a reaver and slayer. No other child will dare tease him. Look at that harelip, mother. Don't you think it looks like a snarl?"

"Well, yes, admittedly. But..."

"No, mother. I have thought about this and I have decided. His name will be Feral. Feral Killmander."

"I see. You know that our last name is Gongfarmer, correct? Not 'Killmander'? Shouldn't his name be Feral Gongfarmer?"

Seamus' eyes were glazed as he beheld the glory of his infant son, "Feral... Feral Killmander."


Demon-Lords have escaped from the Abyss
and are roaming free in the 
subterranean land known as the Underdark.

Five heroes unite to lead an expedition
into the depths of the Earth
to find the underground trading post 
known as Mantol Derith
so that they may learn the way
to Gravenhollow, the fabled library of the Stone Giants
where they hope to find a way to banish
the Demon-Lords back to the Infinite Abyss. 

  • Virtue (PC) - tiefling paladin and warlock, a mysterious wild card of unknown allegiance.
  • Santaka (NPC) - a baby red dragon, loyal to Virtue.
  • Ront Thunderbear (originally an NPC, later a PC) - orc barbarian seeking redemption for his failures.
  • Valerius Adeques (PC) - human paladin and hero, defender and champion of the old gods of nature.
  • Gravy (PC) - scatter-brained human cleric of Selune suffering short-term memory loss, has a big dent in his helmet.
  • Salix (PC) - human wizard, her name will possibly change to Willow, she's still in flux. 
  • Phwee-toop (NPC) - Salix/Willow's owl familiar.

Lord Eravien Haund has assigned us to escort an expedition into the Underdark. There will be 29 or so members of the expedition.

The Leaders of the Expedition
  • Ser Valerius Adeques, a human knight, leader of the expedition I think?
  • Virtue, a demonspawn. I'm not sure where her specialty lies. Also possibly leader of the expedition? She is accompanied by, I jest not, a red dragon! She calls it Santaka! It never leaves her side! I do not trust her.
  • Ront, a filthy orc barbarian. That he is second or third in command sickens me.
  • Silax, a human wizard from Waterdeep. She doesn't speak much. She is protected by some kind of large golem and is attended by an owl. Third or fourth in command. I'm not sure how their command structure works.
  • Gravy, a human priest of the Moon. I'm not certain why he's on this expedition and neither is he. He carries a fish everywhere that he claims is a magic shield. It has yet to rot or spoil so perhaps there is something to his delusion.
The expedition they lead is comprised of elements from several factions.

The Order of the Gauntlet, under the command of Ser Valerius
  • Thora Nabal, human warrior
  • Sylrien Havennor, human warrior
  • Olaf Renghyi, human warrior
  • Elias Drako, human warrior
  • Tamryn Tharke, human warrior

The Emerald Enclave, under the command of Ront
  • Brim Coppervein, dwarven mounted scout
  • Thargus Forkbeard, dwarven mounted scout
  • Griswalla Stonehammer, dwarven mounted scout

The Lords' Alliance, under the command of.. I'm not certain. I thought we were to be commanded by Ser Valerius but he doesn't seem too interested in us.
  • Nazrok Blueaxe, dwarven warrior
  • Kirsil Mantlehorn, dwarven warrior
  • Anzar the Brazen, dwarven warrior
  • Garganthine Truesilver, dwarven warrior
  • Splinter Darkmorn, dwarven warrior
  • Feral Killmander, human spy
  • Zilna Oakshadow, human spy
  • Hilvius Haever, human spy

The Black Cloaks of the Zhentarim, under the command of Virtue.
  • Nero Kelvane, human thug
  • Lenora Hasku, human thug
  • Aligor Moonwhisper, human thug
  • Gorath Torn, human thug
  • Saliyra Dalnor, human thug
  • Primwin Halk, human thug
  • Iandro Alathar, human thug
  • Lhytris Ilgarn, human thug

We gathered in Gauntlgrym and are on a quest to find some Zhentarim trading post deep underground. I'm not sure about the details. There's something about finding a fabled stone giant library and fighting demon-lords.

The first leg of our journey consisted of fifteen days of overland travel from Gauntlgrym to some unremarkable cave in the hills. The entrance to the cave was guarded by some of the black cloaks. As we entered, we encountered someone trying to leave the cave. A hafling.

The halfling said his name was "Pan Gree-yay". He seemed to know Ront and Virtue. The halfling said he had been restored to flesh by some alchemists in someplace called Blingdenstone and that he had finally made it to the surface and to freedom. Ront informed him that they were going back down and needed his help. The look on the halfling's face was awful but hilarious. His hopes were so crushed. He looked so disappointed, and you know that there's nothing more pathetic than a disappointed halfling. It was so cute! In any event, he drooped his shoulders, turned around, and marched back into the cave with the rest of us.

I lost track of the priest known as Gravy. I think he just wandered off.

We entered the cave which became a long passage. The passage descended sharply. We were forced to proceed slowly and cautiously.

The heroes Ser Valerius and Ront took the forward point of our column. They were followed by the Order of the Gauntlet. The wizard Salix and her shield guardian came next surrounded by the dwarven warriors of the Lords' Alliance. Zilna, Hilvius, and I followed closely behind. Behind us were the Zhentarim black cloaks who acted as porters. They carried our supplies on poles over their shoulders. The mounted dwarven scouts of the Emeral Enclave brought up the rear.

I will from this point on no longer be able to record the passage of days or nights. We march until we are tired then we rest until we are able to march again. I will record the cycles of time in terms of marches and rests.

March #1 - Uneventful.

Rest #1 - Uneventful.

March #2 - Uneventful.

Rest #2 - Uneventful.

March #3 - Uneventful.

Rest #3 - Uneventful.

March #4 - Uneventful.

Rest #4 - Uneventful.

March #5 - Uneventful.

Rest #5 - Large glowing insects entered camp. We were told they were fire beetles and were harmless if left unmolested. We captured a few and tied them to leads. They made excellent light sources.

March #6 - We encountered a smaller cave off the passage. The leaders entered into the cave and found a deranged deep gnome who had killed his entire trading party. Virtue said some kind of prayer and cured the deep gnome of its madness. We left it be and continued.

Rest #6 - Uneventful.

March #7 - The rear was ambushed by a massive brown creature the heroes called an "Umber Hulk". It emerged from the ground and took one of the black cloaks. The rest of us stood around dumbfounded as if caught up in some kind of trance. One of the black cloaks showed impressive bravery and dived down the tunnel to save their friend. They were both lost. We eventually overcame our paralysis and continued on, rattled by the experience and the first fatality of the expedition.

Rest #7 - Uneventful.

March #8 - Uneventful.

Rest #8 - Uneventful.

March #9 - The ground opened up behind us and the passage filled with lava. There was a mad panic as we scrambled for safety. There were many casualties and several fatalities.

Rest #9 - Though I was not personally awake, I was informed later that the heroes met a traveller in the passage while the rest of us slept. It was some kind of albino fish man, one of the so-called Kuo Toa. They spoke with the fish man, whose name was Sloopidoop. It asked them several questions and disappeared behind a rock.

March #10 - Uneventful.

Rest #10 - Uneventful.

March #11 - the way was blocked by thick sticky spider webs that made progress slow. Beyond the webs was a large herd of fire beetles that stretched on for hours.

Rest #11 - we never made it past the herd of fire beetles so we were forced to camp among them.

March #12 - The rear was once again ambushed. This time a creature called a "rocktopus" dropped from the ceiling on of the dwarven scouts from the Emerald Enclave. I'm told it was Coppervein. It tried to pull Coppervein up into the ceiling but the thing was quickly filled with crossbow bolts and fell to the ground. One of the other dwarves gathered up the rocktopus into a container. Coppervein bragged that he could not be killed and spoke of the bravery of all Copperveins.

Rest #12 - The dwarf took out the rocktopus to prepare as a meal. The rocktopus was not dead and put up a brief fight before it was smashed to death with a hammer.

March #13 - We came across the ruins of some kind of village. The ruins looked like piles of sand made of cement. I was told it was a Kuo Toa village. It was inhabited by a group of pale Orc raiders. Ront negotiated our passage and we moved past without incident.

Rest #13 - A few of the orc raiders from the Kuo Toa ruins tried to sneak into our camp while we rested. The dwarven scouts of the rear guard were alert and quickly spotted the intrusion. The orcs were repulsed with no casualties.

March #14 - Uneventful.

Rest #14 - Uneventful.

March #15 - Uneventful.

Rest #15 - the forward watch reported encountering a lone drow wandering towards the party. It was shambling and was apparently infected by some kind of brain fungus. Virtue destroyed it with fire.

March #16 - The rear was once again ambushed by an Umber Hulk. It killed Coppervein's lizard mount and disappeared with the body. Coppervein managed to escape unharmed.

Rest #16 - The forward watch reported being attacked by a giant brain with dozens of dangling tentacles and a big beak. It was quickly dispatched by the heroes and destroyed with fire.

March #17 - Uneventful.

Rest #17 - Uneventful.

March #18 - Uneventful.

Rest #18 - The Enclave scouts were on guard duty in the rear when they heard strange clicking echoing through the passage behind them. We were all awakened as two massive insect creatures with massive forelimbs like hooks approached. We formed four ranks - The scouts in the first rank, Black Cloaks in the second and third ranks, and Zilnia, Haever, and myself in the back rank. We peppered the creatures with crossbows. We were able to slay one of the brutes but the other managed to kill one of the scouts and made off with his body.

March #19 - Uneventful.

Rest #19 - Uneventful.

March #20 - We encountered a 70 foot ledge that would have been difficult to navigate. Virtue cast a spell that allowed her to fly and she ferried us down one by one. The equipment was lowered with ropes and the giant lizards easily climbed down.

Rest #20 - Uneventful.

March #21 - Another unending swarm of fire beetles. We encountered fire beetles for hours and hours and were eventually forced to camp among them.

Rest #21 - Uneventful.

March #22 - Uneventful.

Rest #22 - Uneventful.

March #23 - Uneventful.

Rest #23 - Uneventful.

March #24 - Uneventful.

Rest #24 - Uneventful.

March #25 - We were forced to cross a 40-foot wide gap over a 60-foot deep ravine. The only way across was an old rope bridge occupied by a swarm of fire beetles. Once again, Virtue cast a spell of flying and ferried us across.

Rest #25 - More fire beetles.

March #26 - Encountered the ruins of an abandoned duergar village. The ruins were occupied by five goblins who gave us a wide berth.

Rest #26 - Uneventful.

March #27 - A weak section of the ground gave way and I almost fell into a deep pit. I caught the side and was pulled to safety.

Rest #27 - Uneventful.

March #28 - Uneventful.

Rest #28 - Two of the orc raiders once again tried to sneak into the camp while we rested. Their approach was detected by the black cloaks and two orcs ran off into the darkness.

March #29 - Uneventful.

Rest #29 - The forward guard reported that five white-furred bear men came shambling into view during the rest. All were afflicted by the brain spore infestation and all were burned to ash by Virtue.

March #30 - Uneventful

Rest #30 - Uneventful.

March #31 - Uneventful.

Rest #31 - The forward guard reported that six of what were initially thought were stalactites fell from the ceiling and onto the warriors of the Order of the Gauntlet. Several of them were severely injured and a few were killed. The stalactites were some kind of creatures that emerged from their stony shells and tried to feed on their kills. They were quickly killed.

March #32 - Uneventful.

Rest #32 - The forward guard reported that a white-furred bear man approached out the darkness. Unlike the others, this one appeared intelligent and spoke in fine elven. He apparently knew Virtue and Ront and Pain and they spoke at length. His name is Derendil and he has joined our expedition. He is apparently of the same order of scholars as the Kuo Toa named Sloopidoop. I'm told it's called the Society of Brilliance.

March #33 - Uneventful.

Rest #33 - Uneventful.

March #34 - We came across a symbol carved onto a stalactite near a side passage. Derendil said it was the drow symbol of warning. There was a sound of wailing that caused many of us great unease. The leaders debated exploring the side tunnel but ultimately chose to continue on.

Later, during that same march, the Black Cloaks indicated that we were near our destination. They took us into a great rift. We climbed some winding switchbacks. Finally one of the Black Cloaks put their face to the wall as if it kiss it. They covered the sides of their face with their hands so that we could not see what they were doing. The wall opened and revealed a secret entrance!

We entered into a long tunnel. About four hundred feet in a different Black Cloak repeated the same maneuver by hiding their face while kissing the rock.

We were admitted into a different secret door. We emerged into a ditch at the bottom of a large chamber, at least three hundred feet wide and six hundred feet long with a thirty foot ceiling.

We had arrived at Mantol-Derith.


DM Notes - "If we fight Fire Beetles, I'm going home!"

I debated whether or not I was going to run a session of random travel encounters or whether I was going to hand-wave travel and say "After an arduous journey you arrive at Mantol-Derrith!"

I ultimately decided to run the travel encounters for two reasons.

  1. I wanted to instill a sense of distance in travelling to a remote location. I want distant travel to feel distant. Hand-waving travel tends to make long distances feel insignificant and players are more apt to go on distat journeys if there's no perceived "cost".
  2. I wanted the players to get a feel for the members of the expedition. These players tend to ignore their NPCs. They get left behind and are underutilized. I wanted the expedition to feel like an expedition of real people. 
To that end I gave the NPCs to each player to control. Personalities soon arose around their names, with Feral Killmander being a group favorite. They made up the birth of Feral Killmander story pretty  much word for word as I recorded it above. Feral Killmander is a bad-ass sniper and assassin who stays in the shadows. He has a hare-lip, a facial scar, and a permanent snarl. 

The defiant Brim Coppervein is a close second for group favorite. 

It will be fun to see which other NPC pesonalities develop.  In a way its like running a Zero-Level Gauntlet for Dungeon Crawl Classics. 

So anyway, I decided to run the random encounters. I rolled them all ahead of time so it was just a matter of playing down the list.

However, one player said, "If we fight Fire Beetles, I'm going home!"

I laughed because, although there were many fire beetle encounters on the list, I was going to run them as non-combat encounters. Amost terrain encounters. They were just going to be flavor.

The same went for the raiders. The raider encounters posed absolutely no threat to a party of 30+ so those just became flavor.

I also ignored the bookkeeping of food and water or navigation for this leg. I just assumed they were properly equipped and that the Black Cloaks knew where they were going.

In the end, it worked out well. They got a sense of arduous travel. A few of the ambush encounters gave a real sense of horror movie dread by picking off one person and disappearing into the night. The NPCs became real and fleshed out.

I can't wait to start implementing inter-faction rivalries.

Next week - Mantol-Derith!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

"Gauntlgrym" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 24


Four months have passed
since the surviving fugitives from
the Drow prison of Velkenvelve
escaped the subterranean realm
known as the Underdark.

The fugitives reported that
demonic forces roamed free.
It was only a matter of time
before these forces
would threaten the surface world...

Virtue (PC) - tiefling paladin and warlock, a mysterious wild card of unknown allegiance.
Ront Thunderbear (originally an NPC, later a PC) - orc barbarian seeking redemption for his failures.
Jimjar (originally an NPC, later a PC) - deep gnome rogue who likes to wager on everything.

Ficus Asëa (PC) - eladrin sword-mage who became lose while helping escort deep gnome refugees back to Blingdenstone.
Breya (PC)- human bard, sent to rescue Wulfric from duergar slavers, now seeking a way back to the surface.
Santaka (NPC) - a baby red dragon, loyal to Virtue.

Valerius Adeques (PC) - human paladin and hero, defender of the weak and champion of justice.
Salix (PC) - human wizard
Gravy (PC) - human cleric


In the city of Waterdeep, the Breya the bard receives a hand-delivered letter from a dwarven courier. Accompanying her is a wizardess. The dwarf gives Beya the message. The wax seal bears the mark of King Bruenor of Gauntlgrym. The wizardess looked slyly at the bard, "I've been sent by the Harpers to ensure that you arrive."

In the elven enclave, the sun-elf Ficus Asëa is met by a dwarven courier bearing a message. Ficus closes his eyes and shakes his head. "I will come with you but I will not come alone. I need to find someone first."

In a cavern beneath the hills somewhere in the North, the orcs of the Iceshield tribe had gathered. A dwarven messenger had been capturing venturing into Iron Thews terrirtory. The dwarf claimed to bear a message for Ront. The other orcs debated the best way to kill the dwarf. Ront shouted them down. The orc was not to be harmed. He shoved them away and took the message. He opened the envelope and, to the shock and horror of his kinsmen, read the words.

In a basement inn in the port city of Baldur's Gate, a horned tiefling sat enjoying a glass of wine. The room is scorched and the charred bodies of several small-minded assailants lay smoking on the floor. A baby red dragon dozed by the tiefling's side, wisps of smoke curling from its contented nose. A dwarven courier entered, paused to blanch at the scene, then covered his mouth and nose and cautiously approached. The courier held the folded vellum message towards the tiefling. She put down her wine and took the letter. She broke the seal and read the letter.

The letters read:

Come at once to Gauntlgrym for an audience with King Bruenor Battlehammer, to discuss matters of grave importance concerning your experiences in the Underdark. 

Virtue, Ront, Breya, and Ficus were reunited in Gauntlgrym where they were welcomed as honored guests of the dwarven King Bruenor. Once they were all assembled they were gathered for an audience with the king.They were soon joined by fellow escapee Eldeth Feldrun.

King Bruenor greeted them and asked for a retelling of their ordeal. Virtue, Ront, and Eldeth relayed the events of their escape while Breya and Ficus told how how they joined the party later in their journey. All warned the king of the actions of the demon lords in the Underdark and the subsequent spread of madness.

King Bruenor listened intently. When they had completed their respective retellings, he congratulated them on their feat and asked that they join him for a feast in their honor that evening.

The heroes parted the king but reconvened later at the audience hall for the feast. The room was filled with visiting dignitaries:

  • Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn. An older wizard, well dressed and aloof, followed at all times by his hulking shield guardian automaton. 
  • Sir Lanniver Strayl. An older knight, a seasoned veteran of many campaigns, and his coterie of warriors.  
  • Morista Malkin. A young female dwarf, inexperienced but eager, who seemed to be close friends or companions with Eldeth. 
  • Lord Eravien Haund. A beautiful young elven lord with light blue skin, jet black hair, and a cape made of starry night sky. He was accompanied by three halfling servants and three elven bodyguards.
  • Davra Jassur. A shrewd merchant from Thay with piercing eyes and dusky skin. He was attended by six servants wearing head scarves that concealed their faces. 

The heroes interacted little with the other guests. After the feast, they were invited for a private conversation with King Bruenor.

Alone and in private, King Bruenor confided with the heroes that he was worried.  It was only a matter of time before the influence of the demon lords reached his kingdom and eventually break free into the surface world.

The king had in mind an expedition into the Underdark to find a solution to the demon lord problem.

But he needed the help of experts. The expedition would need to be led by individuals familiar with the subterranean realms, individuals devoid of fear and capable of great heroism. He summoned them here to Gauntlgrym so that they might lead the expedition.

Virtue and Ront immediately accepted the king’s offer.

Breya and Ficus, however, demurred.

Ficus was a sun elf and was loathe to return to the lightless depths. Instead, Ficus suggested a surrogate be sent in his stead. He recommended Valerius Adeques, paladin of Justice.

Breya, likewise, had fulfilled her obligation to return Wulfric from duergar slavers and had no desire to return. When asked for a recommendation to replace her, she shrugged, saying, “I dunno. How about that wizard that came and got me?”

The king then looked at the unassuming man with a dented helmet carrying a large fish. The man smiled.

“And what about you? Will you join the expedition?” inquired the king.

The man with the fish looked around confused then pointed at himself to confirm that the king was addressing him. The king glared.


“What?” said the King.

“There was no gravy at the feast!”

The king was incredulous, “You wanted gravy with your meal?”

“That’s my name.”

There was a moment of confused silence.

“What?” demanded the king.

There was another moment of confused silence.

“Yes, the meat was a little dry,” was the reply.

The king stammered in confusion, “W-what?”

“Thank you!” said the man with the fish, who stood shoulder to shoulder with the other heroes, “Are we going somewhere?”

The king pinched the bridge of his nose and refocused. “Well thank ye anyway. Please send in the others.”

Ficus and Breya left and were replaced with Valerius and Salix. They were filled in on what was proposed. Both readily agreed to the challenge.

“Right. I’ve told the other guests ye met tonight what ye told me earlier. I invited them here to learn what is happening, to share what we know, and to get their backing for what it is I propose.” He looked at Ront and Virtue, “Ye have braved the Underdark and lived to tell the tale. Ye know better than anyone what it is we face but we need to know more.”

“The Zhentarim have a stake in a secret trading post in the Underdark called Mantol-Derith. If ye can get them on our side, they’ll guide ye there, where ye can meet with one of their agents, Ghazrim DuLoc. He can provide ye with a map to Gravenhollow. It’s a legendary place built by the stone giants long ago, said to contain all the knowledge of the depths. If there’s answers to be found for what has happened, ye might find them there.”

“I don’t propose to send ye into the dark unprepared, and I hope ye make an impression on those gathered here so they’ll support our cause and your mission. From all I’ve seen and heard, there’s no one better to do what needs to be done.”

The King then explained that he lacked the resources to mount such an expedition on his own. He needed the help of allies. To that end he has summoned representatives from several powerful factions. Each of the dignitaries at the feast represented a powerful or influential order he wished to enlist.

  • Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn represented the Harpers, an order of wizards and bards. 
  • Sir Lanniver Strayl represented the Order of the Gauntlet, a society of heroes and warriors who fought oppression and defended the week. 
  • Morista Malkin represented the Emerald Enclave which consisted of scouts, rangers, druids, and other defenders of nature and the natural order.
  • Lord Eravien Haund represented the Lords’ Alliance, a powerful political organization composed of rulers and governors.
  • Davra Jassur represented the Zhentarim, a secretive faction of merchants, thieves, spies, and assassins.  

 He wished to engage their assistance and resources in mounting this expedition. Unfortunately, he was prohibited from engaging with these factions directly. He could not afford to directly ask for their aid so he asked the heroes to be his proxies. They would need to convince each of the visiting dignitaries of the necessity of the mission. It was up to them to meet with them one on one and obtain their pledge of aid and resources.

The following day, Virtue met with Davra Jassur, the leader of the Zhentarim delegation. Davra was a shrewd merchant, elegant, charming, and erudite. Virtue made the case that great profit could be obtained from her contacts in Gracklstugh and that the city itself was ripe for conquest or exploitation. She offered her services as an agent of the Zhentarim in the coming expedition. In exchange, the expedition needed access to Mantol-Derith.

Davra agreed but with two conditions -

  1. That the Zhentarim receive a full share of all treasure recovered.
  2. Any information shared with Bruenor, no matter how secret, be shared with Davra or his agents.

Virtue agreed. In exchange, Davra assigned eight of his “slaves” - secret assassins in training - to Virtue’s command.

Later, Gravy, Ront, and Virtue met with Morista Malkin. Morista arrived with her companion Eldeth Feldrun. Eldeth greeted Virtue warmly but made an intentional display of ignoring Ront, with whom she had personally clashed before. Ront  made the case to Morista that the demon lords were unnatural and that their madness would soon escape the Underdark and spread into and infect the natural world. It was therefore the duty of the Emerald Enclave to stop this menace.

Eldeth implored Morista to ignore “the orc” whom she characterized as foul and unnatural.

“You wrong! Ront is nature. Ront IS force of nature!”

Morista agreed to assist the expedition and pledged three of her scouts to the cause, but on one condition - they must look for and find one of her missing scouts, a wood elf named Sladis Vadir who disappeared while on a mission in the Underdark. Ront agreed.

Salix arranged a meeting with Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn in the library of Gauntlgrym. Lord Roaringhorn sat at a dwarven chess set opposite a candlestick on a chair. His hulking shield guardian was a silent statue behind him.

Lord Roaringhorn looked bored as he wiggled his fingers at the pieces, causing them to move on their own accord. Salix approached him and he covertly greeted her with the secret handshake of the order. Salix was a member of the Harpers and she had already been briefed by Breya regarding what was needed from Lord Roaringhorn. The wizard invited Salix to play, complaining that none of these dwarves had an affinity for the game. Despite the objections of the dwarven librarians, the epicurean wizard summoned invisible servants to serve food and wine in the stolid hall of knowledge.

Salix was badly beaten three times over the course of the next three hours. During each game she informed Lord Roaringhorn of the events befalling the Underdark and reminded him of the Harpers’ obligations to thwart the demon lords. She told him of King Bruenor’s plan and suggested the order offer assistance.

Lord Roaringhorn, frustrated at Salix’s inability to provide suitable challenge to his game, dismissed her concerns. He informed Salix that the Harpers would assign her to to the mission but would provide no further assistance. He left her at the chessboard to contemplate her future.

Salix stared at the chessboard for a while in sullen reverie. She was going to spend the next several months deep under Faerun. This was certainly not how she anticipated she would be spending the year. Lord Roaringhorn’s shield guardian clomped up to her and stood. She looked up at it and asked if it wanted to play chess. It stood mute. She asked it if it spoke or if it needed anything. It stood mute. Eventually, it held out its hand and placed a magical amulet on the chessboard. She took it and looked up at the automaton, “Huh.”

Sir Valerius Adeques arranged a meeting with Sir Lanniver Strayl at a dwarven inn. Over a pint of dwarven stout they shared their exploits and adventures. Sir Lanniver and Sir Valerius were kindred spirits and got along well. Valerius eventually brought up the topic of King Bruenor’s expedition.

Valerius had been personally asked by his friend Ficus to volunteer for this expedition and the knight did not hesitate to rise to the challenge. Now Valerius asked Sir Lanniver for additional resources from the Order of the Gauntlet. Sir Lanniver listened intently and eventually agreed to Valerius’ proposal. Lanniver pledged the support of five of his hand-picked warriors to the cause. In addition, he provided Sir Valerius with a gift - the magical mace known as Mjau-mjau. Sir Valerius received the gift with gratitude and promised that it would be used by Gravy, the expedition’s holy man.

Later in the afternoon, Valerius and Virtue sought out Lord Eravien Haund. They caught up to the elven noble as he was perusing gnomish gems in a gem shop along Gauntlgrym’s mercantile district. Lord Haund was spoiled and vain and appreciated the finely cut exotic gems.

Haund was unimpressed when presented with the state of affairs below the surface. He had little care for demon lords and perceived little threat from them. Haund listened to their case and replied that he’d be willing to assist but only if Virtue and Valerius joined him for more private entertainment. Both declined and instead appealed to Haund’s paranoia and greed. Virtue pointed out that the Zhentarim wished to utilize the expedition to further their own ambitions while Valerius mentioned the demon lords’ impact on economy.

Haund eventually agreed to provide resources to the mission in the form of agents of the Alliance. He would assign five dwarven and three human warriors to the expedition. In addition, he confided that the Alliance maintained an operative working within Menzoberranzan. Should they be captured and taken to the drow city, they should look out for a high elf named Khelessa Draga. She will be magically disguised as a drow, so they should interrogate all drow they encounter with the phrase, “Silverymoon”. If she is among them, she will provide them aid.

Thus King Bruenor’s expedition into the Underdark was formed. The company would consist of:

  1. Sir Valerius Adeques, human paladin
  2. Virtue, tiefling paladin and warlock
  3. Silax, human wizard
  4. A Shield Guardian
  5. Ront, orc barbarian
  6. Gravy, human cleric of the Moon
  7. Thora Nabal, human warrior
  8. Sylrien Havennor, human warrior
  9. Olaf Renghyi, human warrior
  10. Elias Drako, human warrior
  11. Tamryn Tharke, human warrior
  12. Brim Coppervein, dwarven mounted scout
  13. Thargus Forkbeard, dwarven mounted scout
  14. Griswalla Stonehammer, dwarven mounted scout
  15. Nazrok Blueaxe, dwarven warrior
  16. Kirsil Mantlehorn, dwarven warrior
  17. Anzar the Brazen, dwarven warrior
  18. Garganthine Truesilver, dwarven warrior
  19. Splinter Darkmorn, dwarven warrior
  20. Feral Killmander, human spy
  21. Zilna Oakshadow, human spy
  22. Hilvius Haever, human spy
  23. Nero Kelvane, human thug
  24. Lenora Hasku, human thug
  25. Aligor Moonwhisper, human thug
  26. Gorath Torn, human thug
  27. Saliyra Dalnor, human thug
  28. Primwin Halk, human thug
  29. Iandro Alathar, human thug
  30. Lhytris Ilgarn, human thug

King Bruenor addressed the leaders of the company a final time, "Ye all know the dangers and threats of the world below, and have bought that knowledge with bravery and guile. Even more, in diplomacy have ye forged the first of the connections that will see the North prepared for what might come. If we survive the coming onslaught, we'll have ye to thank, and no dwarf of Gauntlgrym will soon forget it. Ye all have the courage and conviction of heroes. Aye, ye remind me of other heroes I've known. From a tie-in novel that leads into this adventure..."

They would gather after the passing of two siderial days and embark upon a dangerous quest for the hidden city of Mantol-Derith and eventually the fabled library of Gravenhollow!


NEXT WEEK - An overland trek of 180 miles to a secret tunnel, followed by a 200-mile journey through underground passages deep into the earth! Expect random encounters, inter-party conflict, and hundreds and hundreds of FIRE BEETLES!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

"The Vault of the Iron Guardians" - Escape from the Hollow Earth, Chapter Six

Mädchen Gegner was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1919. She was the illegitimate daughter of Leibhaber Gegner, a member of the German Worker's Party. She studied physics and engineering from 1937 to 1943 and was one of the few female scientists working on the V-rocket system with Werner Von Braun.

At the war's end in 1945, Gegner's mother told her that she was the illegitimate daughter of the Fuhrer, Adolph Hitler. This information was a revelation to Gegner who always thought of herself as superior to her peers, a genius surrounded by lesser minds. The knowledge of her birthright served to fuel an incipient megalomania that continued to grow within her throughout her adult life.

After the end of the war, Gegner was recruited by the US army as part of Operation Paperclip and began working on rockets for American guided missile systems and eventually space exploration.

Gegner faced terrible sexism throughout her career both in the German and US military. She resented the lack of recognition for her contributions.  This further fueled her growing megalomania and isolation. She started her own secret cabal of neo-Nazis with the goal of one day starting a Fifth Reich with herself as the true heir of Der Fuhrer!

During the 1950s she developed an interest in the occult. She researched the expeditions of the Thule Society and their discoveries regarding Ultima Thule and the lost civilization of Atlantis. She eventually came into the possession of artifacts collected by Doctor Heinrich Vortex. These artifacts were crystals of reportedly Atlantean creation. Gegner studied the crystals throughout the early 1960s and managed to collect more. She eventually learned that the crystals could control space and time.

In 1975, she met Professor Hoshi Overton, a Japanese-American physicist working on a device he called the Prometheus Engine. The Prometheus Engine would allow a person to transmit their consciousness to their younger self, allowing one to relive their life with all the knowledge of the future. Gegner sensed an opportunity and teamed up with Overton to complete his invention.

Events came to a head in 1980 when Doctor Overton discovered that Gegner was a part of a secret Neo-Nazi cabal and that she was planning on using the Prometheus Engine to travel back to 1933 and re-write world history by preventing the fall of Nazi Germany. Gegner moved quickly to send her consciousness into the past but Overton tried to stop her. In the ensuing melee, both minds were simultaneously transported into the past.

The sixty-year-old Gegner woke to find herself in her teenage body in Berlin. She immediately sought out the secret Thule Society and impressed them with her knowledge. She was brought into the confidence of prominent Thule Society member Doctor Vortex. Vortex, an aristocrat and officer in his fifties, and Genger, a teenager with preternatural intelligence, soon became partners.

Vortex had long known of the secret history of Ultima Thule but it was Gegner's knowledge of Atlantean technology that provided the missing link to his aspirations. Together, Vortex and Gegner traveled the world in search of Atlantean artifacts and power crystals. But they were thwarted at every turn by the heroes of the Hyperion Society, including Gegner's old partner Professor Hoshi Overton - now a young man going by the nom de guerre "Hiroshima Overdrive".

In a recent adventure, the pair came into the possession of an ancient artifact known as the Lodestone. The Lodestone was said to point the way to the lost island of Ultima Thule. They planned to use the stone to find the ultimate source of the lost Atlantean technology. However, the Lodestone could only be operated by an individual with psychic powers. To that end they kidnapped Edith Odinsdottir, a long-time enemy of Doctor Votex, and forced her to use the Lodestone to lead them to their destination.

An expedition was then undertaken to discover Ultima Thule, lost for millennia in the frozen north. Little did they expect that the "island" of Ultima Thule was, in fact, an inter-dimensional portal that would transport them to a fabulous Inner World...

(cue theme music)


Noted scholar and literary historian Cedric Justice,
along with his manservant Panda,
has embarked upon an expedition to
the North Pole to find the fabled island
known as Ultima Thule.

With him are four famous associates
of the world reknown Hyperion Society - 
Bodak Danger, the Welshman with fists of stone!
Jack Flash, myserious and ageless Englishman!
Hiroshima Overdrive, Japanese inventor and adventurer!
Edith Odinsdottir, beautiful Icelandic psychic and occultist!

They have found themselves stranded in 
a mysterious inside-out world of perpetual noontime
filled with deadly jungles, giant dinosaurs, and savage beast-men.

After discovering an ancient crypt,
the expedition was kidnapped by a mysterious flying saucer
and transported to the city of Atlantis
where they were forced to fight in the gladiatorial arena
of Hierophant Tiamat before being freed 
by the rebel leader Marduk.

Now they must undertake a perilous mission
to infiltrate the palace of Hierophant Tiamat
and steal the Gate Key that will free
the true Atlanteans of old before Tiamat
allows her ally the evil Nazi Doctor Vortex 
to summon an army of German soldiers bent on conquest!

Jack Flash was loading the unconscious gate guard onto the hand-cart when he heard a jug of wine being dropped to the ground. It was the other gate guard returning with the jug of wine he was sent to retrieve.

Before the gate guard could react, Edith Odinsdottir reached out her hand and took control of the guard's mind. She mentally commanded him to come forward, be quiet, and stand against the wall. The guard mutely complied.

Edith telepathically asked Jack Flash and Bodak Danger to knock the guard unconscious. Each politely deferred to the other, insisting that the other have the honors. The exchange became a discussion, then a debate, and was escalating towards argument, when the guard showed signs of regaining control of his faculties. Bodak and Jack counted to three and simultaneously knocked the guard out. They added his limp body to the back of the wagon.

GM Note - I haven't got all day!
I interrupted their discussion with the guard clearing his throat and saying, "I haven't got all day. Which one of you will punch me out?"

The heroes followed the flow of slaves entering and leaving the palace to the slaves' entrance. They parked their cart filled with exotic decorative pond fish-creatures and unconscious guards nearby. They showed the guard at the door the jug of wine and were waved inside. Jack Flash and Bodak Danger carried a bundle of wrapped weapons suspended from a pole carried on their shoulder. Utuk and Hiroshima Overdrive were similarly encumbered. The group appeared to be hauling laundry or equipment. They too were waved inside after a cursory inspection.

Once inside, Edith asked one of the other slaves in her pidgin Atlantean, "Where we find dungeon?"

The slave looked apalled at the use of the low language. "Speak Atlantean while in the palace! What business do you have in the dungeon?"

She held up the pitcher, "Wine for guards."

"You must be new! Down the hall to the right. Take the first stairs down to the left!"

Edith and her companions complied.

GM Note- How many Atlantean slaves does it take to deliver wine?
Apparently five because that's the size of the not-at-all conspicuous group of slaves carrying bundles of weapons suspended by poles wandering around the slave halls. 

They eventually found the heavy iron door of the dungeon. The rest of the group put down the bundles and withdrew their weapons - swords and clubs as well as two death-ray lances and two stun-ray pistols taken from the gate guards.

Edith knocked on the door. The small window opened up and she was interrogated in Atlantean. She showed the wine jug. The guard looked confused. She used her mind control to coerce the guard into opening the door.

The armed heroes rushed the door as it opened. They forced their way in and began shooting at the four guards within. As the beam of light from the death-ray passed over a guard, they would scream in pain and fall to the ground. Hiroshima noted that it somehow overloaded the nervous system, resulting in a painful death.

The guards put up brief resistance but were ultimately dispatched.

Bodak Danger was knocked unconscious by one of the death-ray beams. Luckily, Edith was able to find an Atlantean medical kit for use by the guards. She quickly applied healing salves and bound Bodak's wounds. Bodak was back in fighting form in no time.

GM Note- OSHA approved dungeons
Edith's player asked if the guards had any first aid kits. I said yes, but it would cost a Style point. She paid up. We joked about how the dungeons were OSHA compliant and had a standard first aid kit and defibrulator unit by the exit, along with a little sign that indicated the route to the exit in case of a fire. Edith's player made me promise to include this little tidbit in this write-up.

There were three locked iron doors, one to the left, one to the rear, and one to the right. Keys were found upon searching the guards and the heroes unlocked the door to the left.

They found a wing of prison cells filled with prisoners from several humanoid species. Someone said something about coming back later and exploring the next door when they heard the Chinese-accented English of Panda, "Hello! Hello! Is that the Hyperion Society? Are you here to rescue me? Have you found Cedric?"

They acknowledged Panda but told him that they hadn't found Cedric and that they'd be back to rescue him later.

The opened the middle door and saw a long corridor that ended in a vault door. The vault door was guarded by two robotic sentries!

The corridor was ten feet wide and ninety feet long. At the far end stood two artificial warriors. Each warrior was roughly humanoid with a cylindrical metal body and cone-shaped top. Their arms and legs were made of segmented pipes and writhed like massive snakes. At the end of one appendage was a death-ray lance. The other appendage terminated in a deadly buzz-saw blade!

As soon as the outer door was opened the two guardians stood to immediate attention and trained their lances at the entrance.

Jack Flash, Bodak Danger, Hiroshima Overdrive, and Edith Odinsdottir took cover on either side of the entrance and fired their death-lances at the Iron Guardians. The beams passed harmlessly over the metallic covering of the deadly machines for they possessed no nervous system to overload!

The Iron Guardians shined their death-ray lances towards the entrance forcing the heroes to duck back behind cover.

"Well," said Flash, "That's it. Our weapons are useless. What do we do now?"

Hiroshima drew his short sword and charged screaming down the hallway.

Flash sighed exhasperatedly. He drew his sword and ran off after the Japanese inventor. The rest of the party followed suit with Utuk bringing up the rear.

The group ran a zig-zag pattern down the hall in an attempt to present a difficult target. Despite their efforts, many screamed as they were submitted to the painful beam of the death-ray. Jack Flash quickly caught up with and passed Overdrive. Overdrive was struck by a death-ray and crumpled to the floor. The rest closed with the Iron Guardians and fought them hand-to-hand. The metallic sentries fought back with spinning buzz-saw hands!

Bodak Danger punched a heavy dent into the first Iron Guardian and sent it falling to the floor. Utuk jabbed his obsidian-tipped spear into the other with Bodak delivering a crumpling blow with his mighty fist.  Though the battle was a terrific challenge the Hyperion Society won the day.

The vault door was a flat wall of metal with no hinges, apertures, keyholes, or handles. Jack Flash walked up to the vault and touched it. A diamond-shaped opening appeared in the center of the door and widened until it was large enough to admit an adult human. Jack Flash held the door open while everyone filed into the vault.

GM Note - Kudos to the Dungeon Safety Committee
There was another request for stored first aid kits which I provided at the cost of a Style Point. Once again we joked about the OSHA-compliant safety standards of the Hierophant's dungeon and I complimented their safety committee. 

The vault measured twenty feet wide and forty feet deep. Its walls were lined with niches and shelves filled with treasures. Along the wall to the left were six richly painted urns. The lid to each urn was sealed with wax and gold leaf. Their personal effects were stacked on a shelf on the opposite wall. Hiroshima distributed it and donned his rocket-powered flying harness and tool belt. Nearby was a collection of fabulous head-dresses belonging to the Hierophant. Edith smiled and took one. She placed the feathered monstrosity upon her head and looked insufferably proud of her trophy.

GM Note - Nice Hat!
Edith's player inquired about the head-dresses. Once again, I charged her a Style Point and she gladly paid. 

Above a stone plinth near the far wall hovered a purple crystal the size of a man's leg. It rotated slowly in mid-air. It was the gate-key! Edith approached it slowly and removed the crystal. She held it gently in her hands.

Suddenly a commanding voice barked a command in old Atlantean. Its archaic syllables understandable even to modern ears, "REMAIN STILL AND BE QUIET!" The words buzzed with power, just under the audible range. Those who heard it were compelled to follow the command.

GM Note - Narrative Intrusion
Although the Atlantean Power Word linguistics roll was high enough to dominate everyone within ten feet, I gave everyone a Style Point to compensate them for the upcoming narrative intrusion. I suspended game rules momentarily in order to provide some exposition and set up for the next scene.

Doctor Vortex entered the vault accompanied by a sullen dark-haired teenage girl wearing the long black leather coat of a Nazi officer. It looked comically over-size on her small frame. With them were eight soldiers armed with sub-machine guns. Two of the soldiers guarded Hierophant Tiamat who was bound and held hostage.

"You haf done vell in helping us access zis forbidden vault. Ve never vould haf made it past ze Iron Guardians vithout du."

The teenage girl walked up to the frozen form of Hiroshima Overdrive. He recognized his old research partner immediately - Mädchen Gegner!

She touched his cheek with her hand, "Guten tag, herr Overton. What a surprise to see you here. It is too bad zat ve shall never meet again."

She removed his tool belt and draped it over her shoulder, "Du vill not be needing zis I suppose. Danke for such a thoughtful gift!"

Overdrive gritted his teeth and trembled in anger.

She stood on her toes and kissed him gently on the forehead.

Doctor Vortex walked over to Edith, "Zo ve meet again, fraulein Odinsdottir. It seems zhat zhis time I vill not be denied my prize." He took the crystal from her hands and smiled. His leathery skin made slight stretching noises.

Edith's eyes narrowed and she reached out with her telepathic powers. She attempted to control Doctor Vortex's mind. He looked blank for a moment. Then he looked at her in mock disappointment.

"I'm afraid your world renowned powers vill not vork on us, fraulein Odinsdottir." He gestured towards the young lady taunting Professor Overdrive, "Fraulein Gegner, you see, is an expert in Atlantean technologies." He pulled a necklace out from under his shirt, revealing a small white crystal, "Her knowledge of the properties of Atlantean crystals has made her an infaluable ally. Ve are all immune to your trickery, geist hexe!"

"Now ve zhall take ze key und open ze Gate. Zis land zhall prove easy picking fur our Wehrmacht."

Vortex looked at the Hierophant, "Our doman over zis land, zis Ultima Thule, vill help us fulfill our fuhrer's dream of total conquest. Today - Ultima Thule. Tomorrow - all ze Earth. Zhen," he waved his hand in the air before grinning again, "Who knows?"

Vortex walked towards the exit, "Guten tag und auf weidersehen!" He gave an order in passing to two of his soldiers, "Tote sie. Besuchen sie uns auf dem Pylon wenn sie fertig sind."

They jumped to attention and saluted, "Seig heil!"

Doctor Votex and fraulein Gegner left the vault with six soldiers and their hostage, Hierophant Tiamat.

Edith telepathically translated Vortex's last words for the rest of the group, "Kill them. Join us at the pylon when you are finished."

Once they were alone, one soldier spoke to the other, "Werden wir sie jetzt töten?"

"Nein. Wir haben ein paar Minuten, bevor die Hexe Macht endet."

"Möchten sie eine zigarette?"


The two each smoked a cigarette and spoke of the coming invasion of the Inner World and how easy it will be to conquer such primitive people. One pointed out that once they were in possession of the Atlantean crystals, nothing would stop them from conquering the Outer World.

Eventually the guards stepped out their cigarette buts and prepared their sub-machine guns. One took aim at Jack Flash.

Suddenly Jack was a blur of motion. He grabbed the soldier's weapon and stabbed him with his sword-cane. He lived up to his name as he spun around and killed the second soldier immediately afterwards.

"Right," said the English aristocrat as the paralysis wore off his companions, "What's our next move?"

Edith replied, "We should check to see if there's anything else of use in this vault."

They searched but found nothing else immediately useful.

Jack took one of the sealed jars and opened it. It was filled with a sweet-smelling honey-colored liquid that almost glowed. He took a tentative taste. It tasted incredible! He never felt better! He passed the jug around and everyone took a swig.

GM Note - The Fountain of Youth
Jack's player figured that the liquid was Amrita, the Water of Life from the Fountain of Youth. The six jugs was all that was left. I figured drinking a jug of Amrita would slow the aging process by one-half. Drink one jug and you'd live to 200. Drink two and you'd live to 400. Three for 800, four for 1600, five for 3200, and six for 6400 years.

What was hilarious was that Jack is Atlantean, so he's immortal. Drinking the Amrita would do nothing for him. I think Jack's player was hoping for a healing potion or something. 

Since everyone drank only at most a fifth of a jug, instead of doubling their life span it would slow the aging process by 20%, so they might live to 120. 

The unopened door contained another wing of dungeon cells. These cells contained more humanoids including two hawk-men and a chimpanzee-man. Overdrive established communication with them and determined that the hawk-men were diplomats and spies from the Aerie who had been caught, interrogated, and tortured. They were no friends of Tiamat and would help the rebels against her.

The inventor inquired, "Do you have a flying craft?"

"No. But the hierophant has two. They are parked on a landing pad atop her palace!"

The heroes freed Panda from the other wing of cells. They asked the young Chinese man where Cedric was taken. Panda replied that Hierophant Tiamat had him tortured in an effort to coerce Cedric into translating Doctor Frankenstein's notes on reanimating the dead. Cedric was being held under guard in one of the guest suites in the palace.

Overdrive ordered Utuk to help Panda find and rescue Cedric Justice. The rest of the heroes were going to try to stop Doctor Vortex!

The rest of the captives were also freed but Overdrive detained the two hawk-men, "Wait, I have an idea."

The group, including the two hawk-men, made their way outside the palace to the gardens. The hawk-men pointed out the landing pad on the roof of the palace.

The heroes bade their farewell to Utuk and Panda before the pair ran back into the palace in search of Cedric.

Jack Flash held on tightly to Overdrive who activated his rocket harness and shot to the roof. Each of the hawk-men then took hold of Edith and Bodak and followed more slowly behind.

A single discus-shaped flying saucer supported by telescoping legs stood on the landing pad. Overdrive scanned the city with his binocular field glasses. From atop the palace he had a good view of the city of Atlantis.

The city stretched in all directions as far as he could see. He could make out concentric rings and radial spokes of canals converging on the Great Tower. In the other direction rose a ridge of mountains about fifteen miles away. The tallest mountain rose like the prow of a ship away from the city. At its peak was a metallic pylon like the one they saw overlooking the waterfall. Halfway down the mountain he saw a landing pad and a thousand-foot covered bridge that led into a large tunnel entrance carved into the mountain. He spotted a discus-shaped flying saucer on the landing pad. It had to be Vortex!

By the time the others reached the landing pad Overdrive had already gained entry into the flying saucer and familiarized himself with the alien controls. Everyone boarded the strange craft and Overdrive lifted it from the landing pad.

He ignored the landing pad flew straight for the tunnel entrance. His plan was to crash through the columns of the covered bridge and land outside the entrance. Jack Flash shouted, "There's no time!" before pushing Overdrive away from the controls.

Jack Flash increased speed and drove straight into the entrance.

The flying saucer was forty feet wide but the tunnel entrance was only twenty feet wide and fifty feet tall. At the last moment, Jack Flash turned the craft ninety-degrees on its side. Everyone was thrown to the side of the craft as it crashed threw a few of the columns supporting the roof of the bridge and flew sideways into the tunnel.

The saucer screamed and sparks flew as it plunged past the entrance hall and crashed into the corridor leading to the gate room where it came to a stop. The craft was wedged into the corridor at an awkward angle.

Edith Odinsdottir and one of the hawk-men climbed through the hole torn into in the roof of the saucer while the rest descended through the open aperture in its belly.

Four German wehrmacht soldiers gathered at the entrance to the gate room. The entrance was at the far end of the corridor near the twenty-foot high ceiling. They took cover and readied their sub-machine guns.

Jack Flash held onto Hiroshima Overdrive and the pair rocketed down the corridor and into the gate room. The pair flew right over the heads of German soldiers and landed on the round platform containing the gate matrix.

The two hawk-men carried Bodak Danger and Edith Odinsdottir towards the guarded entrance but the beating wings of the bird-men were much slower than the Japanese inventor's rocket harness.

The guards sprayed the corridor with automatic fire. Edith and Bodak both dropped from their hawk-men carriers and rolled to avoid the gunfire. The automatic stairs rose beneath their feet and lifted them to the gate room entrance as they ran down the remainder of the corridor.

The German soldiers were reloading their guns when Bodak burst through the entrance. Bodak shouted, ""HOW ABOUT A LITTLE SOUR, KRAUT?" as he punched a soldier who flew across the room.

Hiroshima Overdrive and Jack Flash squared off against Doctor Vortex atop the gate platform. Two officers held Hierophant Tiamat at gunpoint on the far side of the platform while the young Mädchen Gegner manipulated the colored crystals on the matrix table.

Vortex was dressed for battle in his ornately carved golden breastplate. Gegner wore Overdrive's tool belt around her waist. She also wore an oversized mechanical glove on her left arm and an electrical rifle was attached to a generator worn on her back.

Vortex stepped forward to confront the heroes. He used his Atlantean power words to command them, "Stop und be quiet!"

The pair complied. Doctor Vortex told Gegner to continue activating the gate while he dealt with the intruders.

Doctor Vortex slowly approached Jack Flash, "Attack your Japanese friend."

Hiroshima was held transfixed in horror as Jack Flash drew his sword-cane and slashed at the inventor and missed. However, Jack held the death-ray lance in his other hand and bathed Vortex!

The German occultist grimaced at the pain and embarrassment of Flash having taken advantage of the loophole in his command

"Gah! Attack your fiend twice!"

Jack was forced to attack Hiroshima Overdrive twice with his sword.

The attack freed Overdrive of the effect of the mind control so Vortex tried a different tactic, "Attack each other!

Overdrive attacked Jack but missed. The attack negated the mind control over the immortal and Jack responded by shooting Vortex again!

Jack called out, "Overdrive is being mind controlled! Someone attack him and snap him out of it!"

Edith Odinsdottir complied by shooting at Overdrive with a purloined Luger. Her aim was unfortunately too good and she accidentally shot the inventor in the head! Overdrive fell to the ground in a spray of blood!

Odinsdottir cried out, "No! No no no!"

Gegner momentarily stopped fiddling with the colored crystals to point her mechanical gauntlet at Jack Flash. Glowing circles emanated from the palm and Flash was struck by a powerful force field which pushed him over the side of the gate platform.

Flash fell thirty feet but landed nimbly. The automatic stairs rose beneath his feet as he immediately began running back up to the top of the platform.

Flash reached the top of the platform and fired his death ray lance at Vortex. Vortex howled in pain!

He spun towards Gegner and ordered her to open the gate!

Gegner replied that the destination was not completely entered. Opening the gate now would send them to a random location.

Vortex ordered her to open the gate immediately. Gegner complied, activating the crystals.

The dome around the platform became a grey fog and everyone on the platform staggered as if it had been spun at great speed. Vortex grabbed Gegner. Gegner grabbed the control crystals and the pair ran off into the grey swirling mist. They were followed by the two officers who abandoned Tiamat.

The gate was closing. Jack Flash looked at the spot where Vortex and Gegner escaped then back at Overdrive lying in a puddle of blood on the floor. He gritted his teeth and ran off into the mist to catch the escaping villains!

The gate closed!

Hierophant Tiamat ran over to Overdrive. The inventor lay unconscious but alive on the floor.

GM Note - A Close Call!
Originally, Edith's shot put Overdrive at -4 Health. He would have died on the following round if he didn't stabilize. However, on the next round Edith's player said, "Wait! I have some unused Style Points. Can I spend them to reduce the damage I did to him?" I said sure. This reduced Overdrive's damage and put him at -1 Health. He stabilized on the next round. 

Odinsdottir ran up to the platform and used the Atlantean healing crystal to save Hiroshima Overdrive.

Bodak Danger dealt with the remaining German soldiers. At the end of the fight he was holding one by the shoulder and punching him in the stomach over and over again shouting, "SOUR KRAUT! SOUR KRAUT! SOUR KRAUT!"

Overdrive came to. He and Edith took Hierophant Tiamat prisoner. The hawk-men demanded that she be turned over to them so that they could take her to the Aerie. The others refused and said she would be taken to Marduk.

The heroes returned to the palace and rejoined Utuk, Panda, and the now-rescued Cedric. There they met Marduk who had used the escape of the slaves from the dungeon as a distraction which allowed him and the Vril-Ya rebels to seize the palace. Their underground movement was now a full-blown rebellion.

Unfortunately he would not be able to free the True Atlanteans as he had planned. The heroes turned the recovered gate key over to Marduk but he now lacked the control crystals that operated the matrix table. Without both the gate could not be opened.

Bodak suggested they return to the pylon at the waterfall and use that gate. Marduk explained that the city of Atlantis was on an island that moved through the sea. It would be difficult to locate that pylon.

Edith remembered that she had a lodestone recovered from that same complex. Surely it would point the way? Marduk explained that the lodestone pointed the way to the nearest Atlantean city.

The team vowed to search the Inner World for another pylon. In addition, they would find the way back to the Tree Village and return Utuk to his family and his betrothed.

Panda and Cedric decided to stay behind in Atlantis to help Marduk in his rebellion.

The others took the remaining flying saucer and flew off in a random direction in search of Utuk's home.

As the flying saucer flies out over the concave sea, the camera pulls back. The saucer recedes to a tiny dot. Clouds and floating mountains fly past and the camera passes a small artificial "sun". The camera continues to pull back before passing through the outer shell. The camera continues to withdraw revealing the outside crust of the inner world, a dry grey wasteland of dust and rock. 

Eventually the horizon shrinks to reveal the Earth's moon.