Wednesday, September 7, 2016

"Gauntlgrym" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 24

CHAPTER 24
"GAUNTLGRYM"

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...

THE SURVIVNG FUGITIVES
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.

THEIR ALLIES
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.

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

A ROYAL SUMMONS

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. 


THE FEAST
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.

BRUENOR’S PLAN
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.

“Gravy.”

“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.”

FORGING AN ALLIANCE
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 ZHENTARIM
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.

THE EMERALD ENCLAVE
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.

THE HARPERS
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.”

THE ORDER OF THE GAUNTLET
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.

THE LORDS' ALLIANCE
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.

THE WAY AHEAD
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!


TO BE CONTINUED...

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!