He looked around, confused. He was surrounded by thin emaciated people wearing shifts and loincloths made of coarse material. There were humans, dwarves, blue-skinned elves, drow, and deep gnomes. They looked as confused and disoriented as he did. Each of them had an eye tattooed onto their foreheads. Cordon noticed that he was wearing the same shift and loincloth. He touched his forehead wondering if he too bore the same mark as the others.
They were all milling about in some kind of stone chamber. The only light came from magically glowing crystal sconces growing from the walls. The sounds of fighting could be heard echoing down a nearby corridor. He and a few others cautiously advanced.
He saw a motley group in life-or-death struggle with a massive floating beholder in a massive vertical shaft. The group consisted of a pint-sized male halfling, a brutish male orc, a male human knight, and a female human wizard. They were traversing a corkscrew walkway that wound its way down the wall of the shaft while the beholder flew, hovered, and weaved.
Suddenly the halfling leaped up onto the beholder. The beholder moved out over the shaft as the halfling began stabbing it. The two plummeted over a hundred feet and crashed to the floor. Cordon winced at the meaty sound of the impact.
A few moments later the halfling was joined by his companions as they seemed to be butchering the beholder.
Cordon and a few of his fellow captives advanced. Cordon held up his hand and smiled, "Greetings, I am Cordon the Morninglord, the Holy Radiance of Lathander!"
OUT OF THE ABYSS, CHAPTER 37
"THE HOLY RADIANCE OF LATHANDER"
Five heroes scour the Underdark
in order to find the ingredients
of an arcane ritual
that will banish the Demon-Lords
back to the Abyss
from which they escaped.
After defeating the purple worms
at the worm nursery
and obtaining six purple worm eggs
the expedition now travels
to the mysterious Vast Oblivium
in order to harvest the central eye
of a dangerous beholder...
Sir Valerius Adeques - (PC, human paladin 11) Defender and champion of the old gods of nature.
Willow - (PC, human wizard 11) "the solution is always fireball!"
Phwee-toop - (NPC) Salix/Willow's owl familiar.
Ront - (PC, half-orc barbarian 11) Savage orc of the Iron-Thews tribe seeking redemption for his failures.
Pain Grille' - (PC, halfling rogue 11) Wily street urchin from Waterdeep, was turned to stone in Blingdenstone but got better.
Cordon - (PC, human cleric 10) Priest of Lathandor the Sun God, was on a holy quest when he was captured and enslaved by Karazikar the Beholder
THE SURVIVING MEMBERS OF THE EXPEDITION
Thora Nabal - (NPC) human warrior of the Order of the Gauntlet
Sylrien Havennor - (NPC) human warrior of the Order of the Gauntlet
Elias Drako - (NPC) human warrior of the Order of the Gauntlet
Tamryn Tharke - (NPC) human warrior of the Order of the Gauntlet
Feral Killmander - (NPC) human spy of the Lord's Alliance
Pok-Pok - (NPC) winged kobold.
Sparky - (NPC) trained fire-beetle.
The Shield Guardian - (NPC) a contribution from Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn of the Harpers.
THE PARTY SPLITS
The freed slaves of Karazikar consisted of:
- 21 shield dwarves from Gauntlgrym including Anzar the Brazen of the Lord's Alliance, Brim Coppervein and Thargus Forkbeard of the Emeral Enclave, and famed explorer Amarith Coppervein.
- 17 humans including Cordon the priest of Lathandor, Lhytris Ilgarn of the Black Cloaks of the Zhentarim as well as Zilna Oakshadow and Hilvius Haever of the Lord's Alliance and Olaf Renghyi of the Order of the Gauntlet.
- 11 moon elves
- 9 drow
- 5 deep gnomes
- 23 goblins
- 15 orogs
- Derendil the intelligent quaggoth.
- An insand modron
The heroes discussed their plans with the freed slaves.
The orogs simply left without a word with the goblins in tow. Likewise the drow vanished with nary a farewell. Derendil, however, desired to continue his quest to find Gravenhollow.
The deep gnomes offered to lead the dwarves, humans, and elves to Blingdenstone. There they could accompany a trade caravan to Gauntlgrym and the Overworld. The journey would take sixteen tridons.
Ser Valerius and Pain decided to lead Derendil to Gravenhollow with their contingent of warriors and guards. Using the magical Tablet of Garmin the journey would take eighteen tridons to travel there and return.
Ser Valerius announced that they had no time to waste so they gathered all the food they could carry on the pack lizards and set out for the fabled library of the Stone Giants.
Cordon informed Ront and Willow that he had no wish to return to the Overworld. He had important work to perform in the Underdark and wished to continue his mission. Cordon was disappointed to learn that his weapons, armor, and magic shield had not been found within the Vast Oblivium. He was outfitted with an extra mace from the party's inventory.
WE ARE MODRON
A short while later, Willow asked Cordon if he could pray for a miracle of restoration for the insane modron. Cordon prayed for the bio-mechanical creature and the modron's wits were returned.
Willow followed up by casting a magic spell which allowed everyone nearby to telepathically communicate regardless of language barrier.
The modron and the Overworlders found it difficult to communicate. The modron communicated only in plural pronounds. The modron had no sense of individuality and constantly referred to themselves as "they" and "we" and "us". Indeed, they had no sense of "you" or "it" or "me" or "him" and the modron became confused when Willow or Ront would use these strange words. This greatly complicated attempts by Ront and Willow to communicate with them.
Ront, Willow, and Cordon soon learned that the modron was part of "the Great March", an event that Willow understood to be a great modron tour of the multiverse. The modron, which identified themselves as "duodrone", explained that they had became lost, then they were captured, then they lost it completely, then they were returned to order.
When asked about the Maze Engine, Duodrone admitted that they knew of nothing by that name. However, they could detect an Orderer approximately 289 miles south of their present location. The Orderer brought order to chaos and set things right.
Willow looked a the others, "The Orderer must be this Maze Engine."
Cordon observed his new friends in reserved silence.
A CHAT WITH THE DECEASED
While Ront and Cordon scoured the rest of the Vast Oblivium for anything useful, Willow prepared the bodies of Karazikar and Shedrak for use with the Stonespeaker Crystal.
She touched the crystal to the beholder. The magic returned a semblance of life to the butchered aberration. She interviewed the creature regarding the modron and the maze engine. She appealed to the creatures vanity and self-importance by promising to create for it a stone mausoleum and crypt if it truthfully answers her questions.
Karazikar, flattered by the prospect of an imposing tomb, answered as best he could but the questions were poorly chosen and his answers were ultimately vague and unhelpful.
Willow turned to Shedrak. She once again offered an imposing burial place in exchange for truthful answers. Shedrak wanted only to be entombed forever with his beloved master. She agreed. She asked the dead wizard about the slaves' belongings. He told her that he traded them to drow merchants for food. The drow merchants had last visited three tridons ago and were likely on their way to Mantol-Derith.
Afterwards, Willow kept her promises and, via the casting of stone-shaping spells, created imposing tombs for both villains..
ENCOUNTER WITH OROGS
After a few hours of reconnaissance the dwarven scouts came running back around the bend ahead. They were being chased by two mutated orogs!
The orogs were highly deformed. One of the orogs had two heads and carried a weapon in each arm. The other had one head but four arms. The dwarves made it behind Ront. The orog attacked Ront with each weapon. Ront counterattacked with his greatsword. After another attack Ront cleaved through the orog, cutting him down. Ront continued forward and slew the second orog with a single strike!
The search party continued their search but returned to the Vast Oblivium after finding nothing.
JOURNEY TO BLINGDENSTONE
Ront, Willow, and Cordon decided to accompany the deep gnome expedition to take the humans, dwarves, and elves to Blingdenstone.
From there they would continue on to Mantol-Derith to find Cordon's belongings. They left a note at the Vast Oblivium telling the other expedition of their quest and asking them to meet up with them in Mantol-Derith.
They walked until they were tired, resting until they were sleepy, and sleeping until they were awake. Thus they traveled for over a dozen cycles, encountering various hazards and wonders of the Underdark.
On the fifteenth cycle their route took them to a vast chasm spanned by a frayed rope bridge. Willow once again cast her stone shaping spell and crafted a stone bridge which they were able to safely cross. She decorated the bridge with the mark "W".
After sixteen cycles they arrived at the secret entrance to Blingdenstone. Ront was welcomed as a returning hero. Ront informed the guards that he needed to return the royal gemstone. Ront and the others were ushered to an audience with Dorbo and Senni Diggermattock, co-regents of Blingdenstone, who had since moved their base of operations to the throne room within the royal geode.
Blingdenstone was active. The population had doubled since they left from just over three hundred to over six hundred. Repairs were being made, stone elementals were carrying heavy loads and reopening tunnels, life was returning to normal.
On the way, Ront encountered two familiar faces: Topsy and Turvy. The twins were as annoying as ever and Ront did his best to resist the urge to murder them where they stood. Willow was unable to determine whether the twins still suffered lycanthropy or not. When the twins were told that the party was on their way to speak with the co-regents, the twins became evasive and ran away.
The meeting with Dorbo and Senni went well. They greeted Ront warmly and welcomed his new friends. Ront presented them with the gemstone recovered by the box carried by the succubus pretending to be Gabble Dripskillet. They thanked Ront and brought him up to speed on what has happened in Blingdenstone and Mantol-Derith since they left. Ront and Willow provided news on their own adventurers.
Ront asked about the fate of Kettle and Angolwen, the two party members who were turned to stone along with Pain by Neheedra the Medusa. They told Ront that the same alchemy that saved Pain saved the other two and that they were searching the Underdark for clues to the fate of the royal family of Blingdenstone.
Dorbo then took Ront aside and offered him the use of a dozen Svirfneblin guards to accompany him on their mission to destroy the demon lords. Ront refused their aid for the greater mission but did ask if they could accompany them to Mantol-Derith. Dorbo agreed.
The team re-equipped and resupplied themselves in Blingdenstone. Cordon sought out a tattoo artist to convert the eye tattoo on his forehead into a sun, symbol of his god Lathander. The work took the better part of a shift but the results came out better than expected.
They stopped off at the Foaming Mug where they were treated as honored guests and encouraged to tell their stories to the innkeeper. Ront asked about the dour barmaid but was embarrased to discover that he had confused the inn with the Grohlborn's Lair in Gracklstugh.
After a comfortable rest, Ront, Willow, and Cordon left the humans, dwarves, and elves in Blingdenstone. The next trade caravan would take them to the Overworld. Ront, Willow, and Cordon then took a complement of a dozen deep gnomes to Mantol-Derith.
ONWARD TO MANTOL-DERITH
The next leg of their journy took them to Jewelshine-on-Darklake. The journey was uneventful. They took a long boat from Jewelshine-on-Darklake to Mantol-Derith.
The boat arrived in a hidden niche on the shores of Darklake, the secret Svirfneblin entrance to Mantol-Derith. There they saw an elven druid sitting on a rock dangling his feet in the water. A shoulderbag and staff sat nearby.
"Hello there," said the druid, "care to join me?"
The party introduced themselves from the safety of their boat. The elf introduced himself as "Sladis Vadir", a name Ront immediately recognized. Morista Malkin of the Emerald Enclave tasked Ront with, should they find Sladis in the Underdark, returning the druid safely to Gauntlgrym.
Ront surreptitiously gave Sladis the secret hand-sign of the Emerald Enclave. Sladis provided the correct reply and Ront came ashore.
When asked what he was doing there, Sladis answered that he had been a member of a mission. The mission failed and Sladis was the only survivor. He tried to keep a positive outlook, however, and was just sitting on this rock enjoying the beauty of the Darklake.
Sladis asked about the recent travels of the party. Ront explained that they had come from Blingdenstone and were on their way to Mantol-Derith.
"Ah, Blingdenstone. I've been there."
Ront decided to give Sladis a little test, "What the name of Inn there?"
"Hmm.. Right, the Foaming Mug! I love that place! The patrons there are delicious."
Ront replied, "Yes, well... wait- you just say patrons delicious?"
"What's that? Oh no! I said the pastries there are delicious!"
Ront narrowed his eyes, "Hunh." He shared a glance with Willow.
"You say you are heading to Mantol-Derith? I've never been there! I've been all over the Underdark but that location has yet eluded me! May I join you?"
Ront cautiously answered, "Yes. But way is secret. You need wear blindfold."
"That is acceptable!"
With that, the druid gathered his shoulder bag and staff and accepeted the blindfold.
The party passed through the secret door.
As they passed through the long dark tunnel that led into the city, Cordon walked up next to Ront and Willow. "Ahem. I thought I should tell you now. I think I trust you well enough to tell you about my mission. I was sent by the high priests of Lathander to find the Maze Engine. We believe that the Maze Engine can be used to banish Demon Lords back to the Abyss. This may be a solution to the Demon Lord problem. I just thought you should know about what because I think we need to journey to the Labyrinth and find it and activate it. Good? Thanks. Right then."
Ront and Willow exchanged glances of disbelief that the priest waited until now to share that bit of information.
TO BE CONTINUED...
DM Notes - This was a fun week. We had lots of time to role-play and the return to familiar locales was a treat to the players, allowing them to interact with known NPCs and see the effect their actions have had on the world. Nothing builds a sense of place like returning to a known location and meeting known NPCs, especially old friends.