Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"Gravenhollow" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 32


As the expedition journeyed through the Underdark on their way to Gravenhollow, they came across a tunnel that was straight and smooth. From ahead there emanated a horrible stench of decay. Eventually they came into the view of the rotting carcass of a massive purple worm. The sounds of munching could be heard inside the corpse. The magical ring indicated that Gravenhollow lay through the worm so they mustered up their fortitude and squeezed through the posterior orifice in order to make their way forward.

The going was rough. They were covered in the loose hanging insides of the creatures intestines, cutting their way past curtains of flesh and muscle and membrane. They had to travel single file, squeezing through the body of the worm. Ront led the way with Pain directly behind. The smell was indescribable and the sound of munching grew louder and louder. Although Ront's sun-globe shone with the brilliance of daylight, visibility was limited to a foot or two. 

They eventually came across the source of the noise. A disgusting three-legged monster with writhing tentacles, a large mouth in its torso, and three eyes atop a long stalk blocked their way. The creature winced at the bright light. The creature communicated with them telepathically, "Light is bad! Are you danger?"

The dimutive Pain squeezed between Ront's legs and replied, "We mean you no harm. Please let us pass."

The creature responded, "No. Way is blocked. You cannot go this way. I know secret way. I take you."

"Sure, show us the way."

"No can show. I take you. Crawl in mouth. One at time. I take you secret way. Come back for next. Take next. One at time. I take you."

"NOPE!"

Ront and Pain killed the disturbing creature.


OUT OF THE ABYSS, CHAPTER 32
"GRAVENHOLLOW"

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 are on the way to Gravenhollow,
the fabled library of the Stone Giants,
where it is said all secrets are known.

The journey to Gravenhollow has been long
and difficult. Over ninety days have passed
on the surface while they made their
way through unending tunnels deep
below ground.
Finally they stand at the threshold of the ancient Library...

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.
  • Willow - (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 of the Iron-Thews tribe seeking redemption for his failures.
  • Pain Grille' - (PC) halfling thief from Waterdeep, was turned to stone in Blingdenstone but got better.

ADVENTURERS OF THE ORDER OF THE GAUNTLET
Under the command of Ser Valerius
  • Thora Nabal - (NPC)  human warrior
  • Sylrien Havennor - (NPC)  human warrior
  • Elias Drako - (NPC)  human warrior
  • Tamryn Tharke - (NPC)  human warrior
  • Olaf Renghyi - (NPC)  human warrior (missing)





SCOUTS OF THE EMERALD ENCLAVE
Under the command of Ront
  • Brim Coppervein - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout (missing)
  • Thargus Forkbeard - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout (missing)
  • Griswalla Stonehammer - (NPC)  dwarven mounted scout (decased)









GUARDS AND AGENTS OF THE LORDS' ALLIANCE
Under the command of Pain
  • Feral Killmander - (NPC)  human spy
  • Anzar the Brazen - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (missing)
  • Nazrok Blueaxe - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
  • Kirsil Mantlehorn - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
  • Garganthine Truesilver - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
  • Splinter Darkmorn - (NPC)  dwarven warrior (deceased)
  • Zilna Oakshadow - (NPC)  human spy (missing)
  • Hilvius Haever - (NPC)  human spy (missing)





THE BLACK CLOAKS OF THE ZHENTARIM
Under the command of Virtue
  • Nero Kelvane - (NPC)  human thug
  • Lenora Hasku - (NPC)  human thug
  • Gorath Torn - (NPC)  human thug
  • Lhytris Ilgarn - (NPC)  human thug (missing)
  • Aligor Moonwhisper - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
  • Saliyra Dalnor - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
  • Primwin Halk - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)
  • Iandro Alathar - (NPC)  human thug (deceased)


OTHER HANGER'S-ON

  • Pok-Pok - (NPC) winged kobold, Amarith's assistant.
  • Sparky - (NPC) fire-beetle, Amarith's trained pet. 
  • 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. (missing)
  • Amarith Coppervein - (NPC) dwarven veteran, formerly owner and operator of a menagerie of demon-possessed creatures. (missing)



WELCOME TO GRAVENHOLLOW
The expedition continued their quest to find Gravenhollow, following the magic ring, resting, then continuing their journey. Eventually they came across a strange fat eight-legged reptile sitting upon a rock. The reptile kept its gaze averted from them. It was a basilisk! The leaders of the expedition prepared to fight.

The basilisk spoke, "Well, it's about time you lot showed up! You were expected to arrive eight tridons ago! Follow me. My name is Veldyskar and I am to guide you to the gates of Gravenhollow."

The basilisk led them through a winding passage for another eight hours. The passage widened to reveal a massive entrance - two stone doors, each fifty feet across and two hundred feet high, flanked by gargantuan statues of armored warriors.

Veldyskar led them past the statues. Despite their incalculable weight, the two doors opened slowly and silently as if touched by a breeze. The immense statues turned their stone heads to regard the expedition as they passed between.

The basilisk waddled down a smooth marble corridor into a well-lit central shaft saying, "Welcome, everyone, to Gravenhollow. Hourm will see to your needs from here."

The central shaft disappeared hundreds of feet below. Dozens of levels were connected by massive stairs and walkways. Stout creatures of stone resembling boulders with thick arms and legs hobbled to and fro on various errands. Daylight, emitted by enormous crystals in the walls, was separated into hundreds of splendorous colors via crystal prisms.

A stout creature made of stone like the ones below detached itself from the marble wall. It spoke in a voice like a bag of gravel, "Greetings travelers. Welcome to Gravenhollow. I am Hourm and I am your guide. You have traveled far. I will direct you to a place of rest and recuperation, where you can eat and drink, be comfortable, and refresh yourselves. You may consult the library at any time. Each level possesses three chambers: the archive of the past, the present, and the future.

The expedition took some time to eat, rest, and relax before exploring the myriad levels of the library.

GHOSTLY VISIONS
Ront, Pain, and Valerius wandered the deep central well. Galleries and halls were connected by stairs and walkways.

"Where do we start?" inquired Pain.

Ront barged into a random hall. "This way!"

They entered the hall and were surprised to find a translucent human. They stared in amazement as the ghostly figure shooed them away for they were standing in front of the item for which he searched.

"Um, who are you?" inquired Valerius.

"What? Oh, I am Andarin Zarith, the Red Wizard of Thay! Now pardon me, I do not have time for this."

"Um, are you ghost?" asked Ront.

"What's that? Oh no. I'm simply here at a different time than you. All time is simultaneous here in Gravenhollow. Everyone who ever has been here and ever will be here are all here at the same time. Now, if you will EXCUSE me!"

Valerian and Pain looked around. Instead of books, the shelves contained dozens of crystal shards, each a yard long and several inches wide, along with stone tablets and strange marble columns engraved in spiralling runes. To their amazement, they found they could magically understand all of the runes, allowing them to read the contents of the archives.

"What ARE these?"

Andarin looked terribly annoyed. He sighed and grabbed one of the crystals, "These are stonespeaker crystals. They each contain the experience of a person or thing from the Underdark. The stone giant archivists capture those experiences and store them here. You take a crystal containing the experience you seek and you meditate. Doing so allows you to experience that event as if you were there! Now IF YOU PLEASE!"

They allowed the wizard to go about his obviously important business.

Pain looked at Valerian, "So what do we want to experience?"

Valerian seemed thoughtful, "Well, we came here to find out how the demons escaped. So I guess we'd look for that. But I don't know how to..."

A crystal moved out of its berth of its own accord, sticking out from the rest.

"Huh. I guess we'll try that one."

Ront was waved in and they all held the crystal together. They concentrated on the moment the demon lords escaped from the Abyss.

They witnessed a drow wizard conducting a powerful ritual in his laboratory in Menzoberranzan. He was harnessing the magical energy that permeates the Underdark to power his spell. Suddenly everything went wrong. Massive rifts began to open and horrific beings tore their way through the breach. He tried to undo his actions, to banish the demon lords, but he only managed to scatter the breaches throughout the Underdark.

As he did so, a great disembodied female voice began to laugh triumphantly. The wizard, afraid and insane, staggered back and fled from his laboratory.

URMAS - KEEPER OF THE PRESENT
Having fulfilled the letter of their mission, they sought out Urmas, the stone giant Keeper of the Present, to learn the current location of each demon lord as well as the identity of the drow wizard responsible. They found Urmas busily recording information onto stone slabs, surrounded by piles of records. Urmas was too busy to meet with them so they looked around. Most of the stone slabs contained names and locations as well as statistics and censuses.

It was there they met a drow wizard named Vizerian.
Vizerian
Vizerian was an older drow accompanied by a large grey-skinned toad-like being.

Vizerian overheard the trio discussing the demonic incursion. Vizerian introduced himself and said that he, too, had been researching the subject.

Valerius asked, "Is.. is that a death slaad?"

Vizerian proudly replied, "Why yes, yes it is. He's my bodyguard, Kleve. I got him in the astral plane!"

"Impressive!"

"Oh absolutely! They're great! Do you not have one? Because if you want one, I know a guy!"

After some pleasantries, Vizerian asked if they had consulted the vision of Gromph Baenre, for he was the wizard responsible.

They deduced that they had.

Vizerian helpfully continued, "Then you're on the right track. I'm researching a possible way to undo the damage he's done. Tell you what. Go and experience a few more visions, check in on the status of each of the demon lords. When you're done, find me. We'll talk about what to do next."

OTHER VISIONS
Following Vizerian's advice, the heroes experienced several visions, one for each demon lord. They witnessed Demogorgon rising from the depths of the Darklake and derro cultists invoke his power in Gracklstugh. They observed the rise of Zuggtmoy and the corruption of Phylo and Yestabrod in Neverlight Grove. They saw the rise of Orcus and the re-animation of the dead Great Brain of the Illithid to do the Demon Lord of Undead's bidding.

They focused on Lolth, the Demon Queen of Spiders. Lolth was not in the Underdark. She was still imprisoned within the Abyss. She was surrounded by thousands upon thousands of large egg sacs. She was tending them, preparing them. She noticed that she was being watched and reached through the vision towards the heroes. To their relief, they were protected by the wards of Gravenhollow which broke the connection. The meaning of the vision was clear - Lolth was preparing an army of her brood.

As they explored the various chambers and halls they also met various interesting personages.

In one hall they met a wizard in gray robes with a tall pointed hat and a long beard. He introduced himself as Elminster and recognized the names Valerian, Pain, and Ront. He explained that his "present" was one hundred years hence and that their deeds during the Demonic Incursion were legendary, though he politely refused to provide any details.

They met a mind flayer named Xetzirbror. Xetzirbror was a visitor from several decades previous. Xetzirbror was trying to find a way to save the Great Brain of the Illithid, who was at that time still dying. When Xetzirbror discovered that they lived in its future, the mind flayer became overly curious, inquiring about future events and outcomes. They demurred and moved on.
Stonespeaker Hgraam
They met a younger version of Stonespeaker Hgraam who told them he would remember them in the future. They also came across an elderly and senile King Bruenor Battlehammer, wandering the library in a daze, unsure of where he was, when it was, or what was going on. They came across the gathered assemblage of the Society of Brilliance at the formation of the esteemed organization. They asked about fellow applicant Prince Derendil, for whom they were told to wait, but no one told them he had disappeared.

Finally, they met the demon lord Graz'zt. Graz'zt did not recognize them nor know them. He was polite and asked a lot of probing questions about their reason for being in Gravenhollow. He also asked them if they had met Vizerian and if they knew where he was for he was searching for him. The team politely but insistently deflected the inquiries and extricated themselves from the awkward conversation.

A FUTURE OF NOTHING
The trio sought out Ustova, the Keeper of the Future, for a glimpse of possible outcomes. To their dismay, they found the Stone Giant staring at a large blank slate in frustration. She was surrounded by many such blank tablets. She sighed heavily. The retreated without bothering her.

They ran into Vizerian again. They told him that they had experienced several visions. He smiled and made them an offer.

"Look, I'll save you a few months of research that I've already performed. I've figured out a way to banish the demon lords. I can't tell you about it here. Did you see Graz'zt? Graz'zt is here! He might be listening now. So here's what we do.

"You should come visit me in my tower. It is called the Tower of Vengeance. Do you know where that is? No, of course you don't. It's about sixty tridons away through the Wormwrithings so take this." A nearby boulder-creature walked up and handed them a thick piece of obsidian cut into a rectangle with smooth edges. The device fit easily into one's palm. "This will guide you to my tower. A spirit is bound within it that will show you a map and will give you verbal directions when asked. It will also allow you to magically travel through the Underdark faster than you could normally. You should arrive at my tower in about fifteen tridons. Don't lose it or you'll never find me. Return it to me at my tower."

"Won't you be accompanying us?"

Vizerian scoffed, "Pfft! You Overworlders are so dense! No! Don't you get it? I'm not here! I'm probably relaxing in my tower right now!"

PASSAGE THROUGH THE WORMWRITHINGS
After one more rest period, the expedition gathered together to head through the region of the Underdark known as "the Womrwrithings", a place known as a home for the gargantuan purple worms that tunnel deep beneath the Earth.

The magical device given to them by Vizerian allowed them to make incredible time. They figured they were could cover twenty-four miles in about eight hours.

The tunnels of the Wormwrithings were smooth and straight. They occasionally interstected with other tunnels and sometimes rose and fell or looped around.

Two rests into their journey they came across a widening of the tunnel. The tunnel intersected with a vertical tunnel creating a shaft in the ceiling and well in the floor. As they approached the well they found they were surrounded by six tentacled worm creatures - gricks - that emerged from walls and floors like maggots from rotting meat. From the well emerged a large grick, the Alpha. They had stumbled into a grick nest!

Ront charged the Alpha while Pain took the right flank and Anzar (DM Note - Wait, didn't he disappear?) took the left flank. Thora, Sylrien, Elias, and Tamryn guarded the rear flank. Valerius, astride his celestial lion, served as a floater moving where he was needed. Pok-Pok flew around and dropped rocks on various gricks while Feral fired his crossbow.

(DM Note - Virtue's player and Willow's player were both absent this week.)

Ront took some heavy damage from the Alpha but shrugged it off. The fighting was intense but the gricks and their Alpha were soon defeated.


The journey through the Wormwrithings would require fifteen cycles of long travel followed by rest. During those cycles the expedition encountered three separate groups of flumphs. The flumphs were happy to encounter the heroes and to feed off their positive emotions. The flumphs reported that they had fled to the Wormwrithings to escape the negative emotions and faerzress permeating the rest of the Underdark.

During the fourteenth "day" of travel the expedition encountered a strange nest. Warrens were dug into the cave walls. A horrid smell permeated the place. Signs of recent life were evident but no beings could be seen. Ront ventured into one of the warrens only to be grabbed by a grotesque albino reptile-creature. Ront extricated himself and returned to the group.

He nodded to Valerius, "Troglodytes."

TOWER OF VENGEANCE
On the fifteenth day they came to their destination. The magical device that led them here opened a secret hidden door in the tunnel, revealing a narrow passage. The narrow passage led to a larger chamber. The chamber was supported by several thick columns of natural stone. one of the columns had been carved into the shape of a tower.

The spirit within the device announced, "You have arrived at your destination!"


The gates to the tower opened automatically but allowed only the leaders of the expedition to enter. The rest of the party were magically prevented from entering and were forced to wait outside.

They were greeted in the entrance by a floating orb of darklight. Though the orb emitted no visible light, its magical emanations were difficult to look at without shielding one's eyes. The orb inspected each of the guests For a moment, the orb of darklight competed with Dawnbringer and Ront's Orb of Sunlight. The room became increasingly harder and harder to see. The contest came to an abrupt end and the objects resumed dimness with no clear winner.

The orb led them to a large shaft in the ceiling. Pain, Ront, and Valerius stood in the shaft and were magically levitated to the top of the tower.

Vizerian's study was a luxurious room with fine appointments. It was decorated with esoteric curios. Vizerian stood from his throne-like cushioned seat and greeted his guests. Kleve stood nearby. Another younger dark elf stood at ease in the corner.

"Greetings! Do you like my orb of darklight? I picked it up in the Negative Material Plane. Isn't it fantastic? Can I get anyone a drink?"

Vizerian called a slave from a nearby room to pour some silvery liquid. He took a drink and offered some to his guests but they refused.

Vizerian asked about their journey. Ront blurted, "What about demons!"

"Ah, blunt and to the point. I like your directness. Very well."

Vizerian told the story of his former partnership with Gromph Baenre, his rival for most powerful wizard in Menzoberranzan. Vizerian explained that he was no devotee of Lolth and had no love for the matriarchy of Menzoberranzan. Gromph exposed Vizerian's heresy and Vizerian was banished. To this day he has nothing but contempt for his former partner and for the drow society that cast him out.

He had learned about the demonic incursion and traveled to Gravenhollow to study it. The he learned that it was caused by Gromph. Gromph, being a fool, was duped by his blind devotion to Lolth. Lolth had tricked him into freeing the demon lords from the Abyss. Meanwhile, bereft of its leadership, Lolth planned on conquering the otherwise vacant thrones of the absent demon lords.

Vizerian explained that he had a plan to reverse Gromph's actions. While in Gravenhollow he learned a ritual that would summon all of the demon lords into a single location. So summoned, they would instinctively fight each other for dominance. Some foolhardy heroes might wait for the melee to end and defeat the remaining demon lord while they were weakened.

"Interested?"

"Tell us more" replied Valerius.

Vizerian said he needed certain very rare ingredients to perform the ritual and that he would need their help in obtaining these ingredients. The ingredients needed were:

  1. The intact and unhatched egg of a purple worm
  2. The central eye of a beholder
  3. Six feathers from six different angels
  4. The heart of a goristro
  5. Thirteen tinmask mushrooms from the footprint of a marility, balor, or goristro
  6. The blood of a demon lord
  7. Gromph Baenre's grimoires and notes
He told them where he thought someone might find these items, then appraised them for their response.

"Are you up for the task?"

TO BE CONTINUED...