Thursday, October 6, 2016

"An Elderly Beholder is Assassinated" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 27


Lorthuun the Beholder was getting too old for this shit.

He was once feared. He was an Eye Tyrant, a villain, a mover and shaker. Men feared him. Monsters paid him homage and sent him tribute. His lair was a death-trap from which no one could escape.

Now he served the Zhentarim as a negotiator. A NEGOTIATOR! He was a joke! He no longer commanded respect and dread. He now took orders from a superior, a HUMAN!

How had this happened? He had grown old and feeble. Four of his eyestalks had become blind with cataracts. He couldn't even negate the magic cast in his presence. Then one day, the elderly beholder was forced to flee his home when it was attacked by a young dragon. He barely survived the encounter.  He fled, clinging to his life.

An alchemist found him. The alchemist healed his wounds and helped him recuperate. Lorthuun the Fearsome was now Lorthuun the forgotten. No one trembled at his name. No one could even remember his name. The elderly beholder found work with a faction of Overworlders called the Zhentarim. He served as an adviser and helped them establish a foothold in the Underdark.

Beholders don't have friends, they have servants and slaves. Lorthuun possessed neither servants nor slaves, but he did have a friend: the human named Ghazrim DuLoc. Although technically his superior, Ghazrim treated Lorthuun as an equal. Lorthuun appreciated that. The two got along well. They bantered like old friends and communicated with each other through an incessant stream of sarcastic insults.

Today they would meet with the Drow. There was unrest in Mantol-Derith. The peace had been broken and the duergar were warring with the Svirfneblin. The peace would be reestablished, of that he had no doubt, but in the meantime the humans of the Zhentarim trade guild would form an alliance with the drow. The allies would then take advantage of the conflict, negotiating new trade deals with both belligerents. Then they would end the fighting and the drow and the humans were reap the profits.

This would be easy. The negotiations should take no longer than a bit (an eighth of a tridon or about an hour). Then he could return to his tent and sleep.

The delegation prepared to leave the warehouse. DuLoc straightened his coat and asked the beholder how he looked.

"Terrible, as always," grumbled the old Beholder.

Ghazrim smiled and turned to open the door.


OUT OF THE ABYSS, CHAPTER 27
"AN ELDERLY BEHOLDER IS ASSASSINATED"

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.

They must find Gravenhollow,
the fabled library of the Stone Giants,
where it is said all secrets are known.

They have travelled to Mantol-Derith
to meet Ghazrim DuLoc
who knows the way to Gravenhollow.

Now they must rescue the merchant
from assassination by the nefarious
Dark Elves known as the Drow.

THE LEADERS OF THE EXPEDITION

  • 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.
THE ORDER OF THE GAUNTLET
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
THE EMERALD ENCLAVE
Under the command of Ront
  • Brim Coppervein - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout
  • Thargus Forkbeard - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout
  • Griswalla Stonehammer - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout
THE LORDS' ALLIANCE
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
THE BLACK CLOAKS
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
OTHER HANGER'S-ON
  • 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.
A MISUNDERSTANDING 
There was a scream from the Zhentarim pavilion followed by a crash, a bright flash with thunder, and the sound of battle!

Valerius called forth his celestial lion, mounted, and charged forth! Pain activated his magical boots and ran ahead. Virtue and the other members of the expedition struggled to keep pace. Ront kept his eye on the gargoyle perched on a high ledge. The gargoyle looked startled and watched the pavilion in nervous anxiety.

Valerius and Pain burst into the pavilion. Valerius sword "Dawnbringer" blazed forth, filling the interior of the large tent with the light of day. The pavilion was long and rectangular with a smaller "room" on the far end, forming a reversed "L" shape. There was a large round table at the far end. A long table with wine and viands was placed in the adjoining "room".
Lorthuun the Older Beholder
In front of the table, Lorthuun the beholder lay bleeding on the ground, dying, like a half-deflated ball. Purplish-black ooze bubbled and frothed from the wound. Ghazrim DuLoc was surrounded by three of his black-clad bodyguards. They were beset by a drow elite warrior. Two other bodyguards moved towards a second elite warrior. Two more bodyguards lay dying on the floor. The drow negotiator had retreated to the table with the viands, her hand still glowing from arcane power. The air smelled of ozone from the recent discharge of a lightning bolt spell.

Valerius moved to intercept the drow warriors and protect DuLoc. Pain sped across the room at blinding speed to engage the drow mage. The mage screamed, "Perfidious betrayers! You planned this trap all along!"

They were soon joined by Virtue along with the other members of hte expedition. DuLoc was hastily escorted out of the pavilion his men and the black-cloaks of the expedition.

Valerius made short work of one of the drow. Virtue fired an arcane bolt at the mage and Pain followed up with a sneak attack to a non-vital area. The drow mage fell, overwhelmed by the shock and pain. The second drow disengaged to protect her mistress, creating a zone of magical darkness to shield her from further attacks.

Valerius checked on the Lorthuun but the beholder was dead. The svirfneblin with the leather satchel was busy cutting off one of Lorthuun's eyestalks. The deep gnome, whose name was Peebles, smiled nervously and paused.

"Stop that!" Valerius admonished.

Virtue noticed a large hole cut into the tent near the big round table. She looked outside.

BATTLE ON THE BRIDGE
While the others fought inside the pavilion, Ront ordered the mounted scouts to ride around to the back of the tent to catch anyone who tried to escape.

Suddenly, the gargoyle took flight, heading over the pavilion towards a land bridge that crossed a pond. Ront gave chase, following as best he could.

The gargoyle was watching something on the ground, moving between the many tents of the Zhentarim quarter. It flew near the ceiling, about sixty feet off the ground, making small circles towards the pond.

It was following someone.

Virtue, having seen Ront following the gargoyle stepped through the tear in the tent wall and case a spell of flight upon herself. She called for her baby dragon Santaka to join her and the two leaped into the air.

From her vantage in the sky, Virtue could see a furtive figure crossing the bridge. It was a drow fleeing the scene of the battle in the pavilion. The gargoyle was nervously following the drow. Ront was following the gargoyle but did not see the figure.

Virtue called to Ront and tried to point out the escaping drow. Ront looked confused, cast his eyes towards the bridge, but saw nothing. He cautiously moved onto the bridge.

Suddenly, the gargoyle was upon Virtue. The two fought in mid-air but the gargoyle was brought down by the sudden attack of the pony-sized dragon. The gargoyle and dragon fell into the lake with a loud splash and a hiss of steam.

Ront was distracted by the spectacular gout of water when suddenly he was stabbed from behind by a poisonous blade! He shuddered but recovered quickly. Virtue swooped down and the two quickly disabled the drow assassin and tied her up.
Kinyel Druu'Giir


PARLEY IN THE PAVILION
Pain attempted to parley with the drow warrior in order to find out what happened. He learned that the black cloaks attacked the drow delegation so the drow fought back. When asked about the missing drow, the warrior was surprised and admitted that she knew not the location of her companion Kinyel.

Pain convinced her to remove the spell of darkness and allow Valerius to heal the mage-negotiator. They moved the mage onto the long table and Valerius called on the forces of nature to heal her wounds.

When asked about a large gem, the warrior said she knew nothing about it.

The drow assassin, whose name was Kinyel, was brought into the pavilion and laid on the floor.

Kinyel was revived and questioned. Kinyel revealed that she tried to assassinate the beholder because she believed that her dishonor would be undone and she would be welcomed back into her house as a hero if she killed Lorthuun.

Virtue searched through Kinyel's pockets for the stolen gem but found nothing.

Valerius asked, "Did you find it?"

Virtue said, "No."

Pain interjected, "Yes you did. You put it into your pocket!"

Virtue, surprised, replied, "No I..." She reached into her pocket and was surprised to find it there. "Huh."

Virtue began to daydream. her mind was a million miles away.

"...Virtue! I said put it on the ground!"

"What? No!"

Pain knocked it out of her hand. It fell to the floor. Pain tried to smash it with the hilt of his dagger. It did not break. Before Virtue could snatch it back up, he kicked it across the floor towards Valerius, "Yo! Use your magic sword to break it!"

Before Valerius could catch it, the fist-sized gemstone magically bent its trajectory and flew into the hand of the drow mage, "No! It shall be mine!"

Valerius summoned forth the fiery blade of Dawnbringer and whacked it out of her hand. It once again fell to the floor. Valerius impaled the gem with Dawnbringer's blade of pure sunlight.

The gemstone shattered, causing the ground to tremor. A cloud of glowing gas emerged from the broken shards. The image of a hulking winged humanoid demon emerged from the swirling gas. It rose in the air and stretched its arms and wings. It hissed, "Freeeeeee...." and was gone.

Someone said, "Well, that' can't be good."

DM Notes - I added an additional level of complexity to the crystal's allure. 

In the book, anyone who touches the crystal must make a Charisma save or gain an indefinite madness.

I added an extra step. Anyone who SAW the crystal had to make a Wisdom save or try to steal the crystal for themselves. Virtue failed her Wisdom save and her Charisma save. So did the Drow Mage. Everyone else made theirs.

DM Notes- Perfidy! Betrayal!

Pain came to the conclusion that one of the humans saw the gem on Kinyel and tried to steal it, setting off the fight.

That's an interesting theory. It fits and I'm not going to contradict it.

FINALLY, REST
The drow delegation returned to their enclave with Pain and Valerius' sincere apologies.

Valerius and Pain turned to carry the dead back to the Zhentarim enclave. They caught Peebles the deep gnome cutting off more eye stalks, having already severed three. Peebles was chased out of the tent.

The members of the expedition finally met with Ghazrim DuLoc. The Zhentarim negotiator lamented the loss of his beholder friend but grinned when me mentioned that he automatically inherited all of Lorthuun's shares in the profits.

When told of the expedition's mission, Ghazrim removed his magical ring. He explained that very few mortals have ever been to Gravenhollow and that he was among them. He was given this token that, should he ever wish to return, would guide him to the secret place. He gladly gave the ring to Virtue and explained to her how it worked. He also said that Gravenhollow was over sixty tridons away.

GM Note - The players groaned.
Yes, more travel. Sixty days more travel!

After a meal, Ghazrim explained the current situation in Mantol-Derith.

The peace was broken. The duergar were fighting with the svirfneblin. He was attempting to establish an alliance and non-aggression pact with the drow when he was interrupted. He would try again on the following tridon.

The members of the party urged Ghazrim not to abandon Mantol-Derith, despite the fracturing of the peace. He assured them that he would not. He felt that the situation was temporary. He would figure out some way to get the two sides to stop fighting. Until then, he and the drow were simply taking advantage of the unrest to renegotiate better trade terms and increase their short-term profits.

When asked about their short-term plans, Valerius answered that they would need re-supply for their journey. They needed food, water, pack lizards, and crossbow bolts.

Ghazrim offered them food and pack lizards from his supply. He also sold them a magical item from his personal collection - a fabulous decanter that always produced water in unlimited supplies.

Alas, however, he had no weapons to trade. The party needed to get those from the duergar, and they weren't trading at the moment because of the feud.

After dinner, the expedition was finally able to rest for a shift. They slept in comfort by temporarily displacing a Zhentarim merchant from his personal tent.

PEEBLES THE CREEPY DEEP GNOME
The following shift, they were approached by Peebles. Peebles asked if he could join the expedition.

"I have to, uh, leave Mantol-Derith."

"Why?" asked Pain.

"Oh, no reason. I just have to go somewhere and I'd like an escort, that's all."

"Where?"

"Uh, that's a secret."

"No." said Ront bluntly.

Peebles looked desperate, "Well, maybe I can just follow along with you? You know, for a while?"

"No." repeated Ront.

"I can pay you with a magic sword!"

Pain asked around, "Does anyone need a magic sword?"

Virtue and Valerius shook their heads. Ront asked, "What about you?"

Pain said, "I'm a halfling and a thief. I'm no good with a long sword. Sorry. No swords."

Peebles looked off in the distance, trying to think of something else to say. He eventually tried again, "Please?"
Pain Grille'

Ront and Pain answered in unison, "No!"

Peebles walked away dejectedly.

PATCHING THINGS UP WITH THE DUERGAR
The team needed more crossbow bolts but none of the merchants in Mantol-Derith were open for business. They decided they needed to patch things up.

Leaving the rest of the force behind, Virtue, Valerius, Ront, and Pain walked up to the gates of the Duergar enclave. The wrought iron fence around the mushroom orchard had been replaced with reinforced iron walls.

Pain called out. No one answered. Eventually, after much shouting and commotion, a duergar responded from behind the wall. Pain asked to speak with Ghuldur. The unseen duergar said he was busy. Valerius said that if the duergar didn't get Ghuldur, they'd leave and return with their entire expedition and take the Duergar enclave by force of arms. The duergar paused then said he'd go get Ghuldur.

Ghuldur returned and negotiated with Pain over the wall. Pain asked what it would take to end the feud and reopen trade.

"Valuable property has been taken from my close friend Krimgol Muzgardt by the deep gnomes! On top of that, YOU murdered Krimgol and killed several of my men! I demand the return of my property and 5000 gold pieces in reparations from the Deep Gnomes! Furthermore, I demand you hand over the wyrmling to me in reparation for the murder of Krimgol and my men!"

Virtue crossed and arms and stood in front of the dragon Santaka, "No."

Pain produced the shards of the cursed gemstone. He explained that the gemstone was cursed and that anyone who saw or touched it became insane or possessed. The gemstone was broken now and its curse was lifted. He went on to explain that 5000 gold pieces was too much and haggled with Ghuldur for a lesser price.

Ghuldur revealed that he had heard about the breaking of the gemstone and its cursed nature. He thanked them for their efforts in that regard.

After a moment's thought, Ghuldur agreed to end the feud with the deep gnomes and the heroes on two conditions. First, they would all be forced to lay down their weapons and publically apologize to all of the duergar for the mruder of Krimgol and the others. Secondly, the deep gnomes would have to surrender to him gemstones worth 500 gold pieces.

Pain checked with Virtue and Valerius and they agreed. He looked at Ront. Ront's eyes grew wide and his lips curled back in a snarl, then agreed. They complied.

Ghuldur demanded he repeat the apology louder. They repeated the apology louder.

Ghuldur was satisfied.

The heroes then went to the svirfneblin enclave. It was likewise barricaded and Pain alone was let inside. Pain met with Gabble Dripskillet in her burrow. Gabble was lounging on comfortable pillows, drinking fine wine, and munching on small sauteed mushrooms and tiny fried insects. She was If he noticed a change in demeanor, he did not betray it.
Gabble Dripskillet

Pain told Gabble that the duergar would call off the feud if she paid them gemstones worth 1000 gold pieces. She agreed and ordered an attendant to retrieve the payment. However, she gave him a condition. She and two servants needed escort to transport an important item to Blingdenstone. Pain tried to explain that they had other plans but she said it was only six tridons away and wouldn't be much of a distraction. Pain sighed and agreed.

Pain took the sack of ten quartz gemstones outside the enclave. He was immediately met by several duergar who suddenly appeared from their invisibility. Pan held up the sack with pride. The duergar thanked him and took the entire sack of ten gemstones. Pain's eyes grew wide for a second and his smile froze as he tried to hide his disappointment. The duergar thanked him and returned with Pain to the enclave of the gray dwarves where he showed the unexpected boon to everyone.

The heroes were able to purchase weapons and armor but were unable to buy crossbow bolts. Ghuldur mentioned that the drow sold crossbow bolts. Valerius asked if anyone had maps of the Underdark. Ghuldur suggested the drow named Zilchyn Q'leptin. He sells maps.

Valerius groaned.

RETURN TO THE DROW ENCLAVE
Valerius, Virtue, Pain, and Ront crossed Mantol-Derith to the drow quarter. There, sitting on a bench in the fungal garden, they found Zilchyn Q'leptin. Zilchyn saw them approaching and got up to leave. When last they spoke, Valerius had offended the drow's honor by accusing him of theft. That the drow was guilty of the crime was irrelevant.

They called out to Zilchyn and he stopped. He eyed their approach suspiciously. They explained that they wished to purchase maps of the Underdark. Zilchyn's demeanor changed. His anxiety had been replaced with the zeal of a salesman. He showed them his maps and explained that, using his maps, one could find the way to Menzoberranzan, Blingdenstone, or Gracklstugh.

They asked if he had any general maps of the Underdark. They simply wished to know where things were in relation to each other. The drow thought about it and replied that he had such a map, but not on him.

He explained that the map they wanted was hidden away in a niche a few tridons out from Mantol-Derith. He would need to travel there to retrieve the map. It was dangerous to journey anywhere in the Underdark so he was reluctant to travel there alone. If they helped him him retrieve the map, as well as a few other possessions he had hidden there, he'd happily give them the map for free.

They thought about it but declined the offer. Afterwards, they located a drow merchant and purchased some crossbow bolts.

DM Note- After not purchasing a map, one of the other players asked Valerius' player: "You want a map of the Underdark? Here!"



THE LONG JOURNEY AHEAD
After a long rest, the expedition gathered to begin the journey to Gravenhollow by way of Blingdenstone. They were joined by Gabble and two bearers carrying a box suspended by two poles. Several pack lizards were laden down with supplies and equipment. They set off on their journey.

Like all journeys through the subterranean realm of the Underdark, there was no day and no night. The expedition traveled until they were tired then stopped until they were rested. The first few cycles passed uneventfully. Gabble led the way as they traveled to Blingdenstone.

During the fourth such cycle,  two of the members of the delegation from the Lords' Alliance suddenly fell through the bottom of the passage and disappeared! There was no ambush, no cave-in. They simply fell through solid stone! Zilna Oakshadow and Hilvius Haever simply disappeared into the earth! Several hours were spent in an attempt to locate and rescue them to no avail. Their disappearance was a mystery and caused great anxiety among the other members of the expedition.

DM Note- The Legend Grows

I rolled a d8 to determine roughly which NPCs it would effect. They're all arranged in a line two or three abreast. The d8 tells me front, back, or where in the middle. I rolled a 5. I picked two minis from that area and said, "They're gone." They were spies from the Lords' Alliance.

Pain's player said, "Holy shit, really?!"

"Yep."

"That just leaves Feral Killmander. Feral Killmander survives again!"

The expedition continued on and eventually stopped and laid down in the passage to rest. When they woke, Lhytris Ilgarn of the Zhentarim black cloaks had likewise disappeared. His pack and equipment still on the ground where he had laid.

THE DEAD END
During the fifth cycle of travel, Gabble led the expedition into a large caven. The cavern was filled with a dense fog that restricted visibility to a few feet. Not even the glowing brilliance of Dawnbringer could pierce the milky white haze. Gabble instructed everyone to follow the wall to the left.

The expedition carefully made their way around the chamber when the thunderous roar of a ceiling collapse echoed through the dark. There was a moment of concern as everyone reported in.

Gabble began laughing, giggling at first then cackling maniacally. Her voice changed, becoming deeper and more menacing. The fog began to dissipate as Gabble began to change her shape. No longer was she the diminutive deep gnome covered in jewels. She was now a tall voluptuous humanoid female with purple skin, horns, great leathery wings, and a long tail.

The center of the room fell away into a deep pit. The ceiling was a tall shaft. Through the hole in the ceiling poured a swarm of demonic flying insects. Their infernal buzzing was deafening.

"Ha ha ha! You fool! You fell right into my trap! Now, Virtue, for having me banished from Gracklstugh, I will have my revenge!"

TO BE CONTINUED...


  • Zilna Oakshadow - (NPC)  human spy (deceased)
  • Hilvius Haever - (NPC)  human spy (deceased)
  • Lhytris Ilgarn - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)