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!
OUT OF THE ABYSS, CHAPTER 25
"THE JOURNEY TO MANTOL-DERITH"
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.
TROUBLE ON ARRIVAL
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.
THE DUERGAR ENCLAVE
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.
"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 FUNGUS GARDEN OF THE DROW
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.
A closer investigation revealed a young svirfneblin.
"Please help me!" whispered the deep gnome.
"Are you Frunk Thunderbottom?" inquired Valerius?
"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?"
"WHERE'S - THE - GEM?"
"Oh, sorry. A gargoyle stole it!"
"A wha-? Start over. Tell us everything that happened after Mistress Coaxrock gave you the gem."
"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?"
"Right. Let's go." Valerius stood up and he and Virtue and Ront marched toward the gates to the Drow enclave.
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.
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!
...TO BE CONTINUED!