Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"The Adamantine Tower" - Out of the Abyss, Chapter 38

Ser Valerius Adeques, Wielder of Dawnbringer
Ser Valerius, human paladin and wielder of Dawn Bringer, and Pain Grille, halfling rogue and street urchin, returned with their entourage after delivering Derendil the erudite quaggoth to Gravenhollow. There they witnessed the installation of Derendil as a member of the Order of Brilliance, an assemblage of sages from the various savage cultures of the Underdark.

After bidding farewell to the white-furred quaggoth, they had planned on reuniting with the rest of their party in the Vast Oblivium, the former home of the tyrannical beholder Karazikar.

They arrived at the Vast Oblivium to find a stone mausoleum built honoring the evil beholder Karazikar and his chief sycophant, the wizard Shedrak. The rest of their party were nowhere to be found.

Instead, carved into the stone at the base of the central vertical shaft that formed the core of the complex they found a message:


Ser Valerius looked down at his diminutive companion, "I guess we're going to Mantol-Derith."

The halfling thought for a moment, "I think I'll take a detour to Blingdenstone. I'll meet you there."


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.

Thus far the expedition has managed to acquire
the egg of a purple worm
and the central eye of a dread beholder.
Now they seek the Labyrinth
in search of the wing of an angel
and the fabled Maze Engine
which could destroy a Demon Lord...

Sir Valerius Adeques - (PC, human paladin 11, male) Defender and champion of the old gods of nature, commander of the forces from the Order of the Gauntlet.
Willow - (PC, human wizard 11, female) "the solution is always fireball!"
Ront - (PC, half-orc barbarian 11, male) Savage orc of the Iron-Thews tribe seeking redemption for his failures.
Pain Grille' - (PC, halfling rogue 11, male) Wily street urchin from Waterdeep, was turned to stone in Blingdenstone but got better, commander of the Lord's Alliance forces.
Cordon - (PC, human cleric 10, male) Morninglord, Holy Radiant of Lathandor the Sun God, on a holy quest to activate the Maze Engine.

Thora Nabal - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Sylrien Havennor - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Elias Drako - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Tamryn Tharke - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet), gravelly voiced amazon with the hots for Feral.
Olaf Renghyi - (NPC, human veteran, Order of the Gauntlet)
Feral Killmander - (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance), raspy-voiced killer with a hare-lip
Zilna Oakshadow- (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance)
Hilvius Haever  - (NPC, human spy, Lord's Alliance)
The Shield Guardian - (NPC, shield guardian) a contribution from Lord Zelraun Roaringhorn of the Harpers.
Phwee-toop - (NPC, owl) Willow's familiar.

Ront, Willow, and Cordon accompanied a caravan of deep gnome merchants into the secret trading city of Mantol-Derith. With them was the blindfolded elven druid Sladis Vadir.  The caravan entered the cavernous underground trading post and proceeded directly to the Svirfneblin enclave.

There was a new fungus garden planted outside the entrance to the enclave. Within the enclave the caravan encountered disorder. There was no appointed leader. Several deep gnomes sat around with nothing to do. Ront demanded to speak to whomever was in charge. When no one volunteered, Ront appointed Corybar, the leader of the caravan, as Chief Negotiator.

After setting in and storing the shipment of gemstone samples, Ront, Willow, and Cordon explored the bazaar ins earch of Cordon's stolen equipment. Upon inquiring with a drow merchant, they learned that the equipment had been sold to a human merchant named Weazel.

They found Weazel in the Zhentarim quarter. The human was wearing Cordon's tabard emblazoned with the symbol of Lathander. Weazel gladly sold the tabard back to Cordon for the exorbitant price of ten gold pieces. Afterwards, Cordon was able to reequip himself with all new essentials using funds from the party treasury. The one item he still lacked, however, was his magical shield.

He soon learned that the shield had been purchased by Ghazrim Duloc, chief negotiator of the Zhentarim delegation. 

Cordon requested and was granted a meeting with Ghazrim DuLoc based purely on the reputation of his traveling companion Ront. Ghazrim met with the party in the Zhentarim pavilion, providing them with comfortable pillows, olives, and wine from the Overworld.

He politely listened to Cordon's story. Ghazrim confirmed that he now possessed the shield and that it was a valuable addition to his collection. Cordon offered a payment of five hundred gold coins for the shield.

Ghazrim calmly asked, "let me see the coins in question."

Willow produced a normal-sized coin from the party treasury in their magical bag of holding.

"I would gladly take five hundred gold coins, but only if each coin was ten times the size of that one." said Ghazrim. "What else would you offer?"

Willow rummaged through the bag of holding and produced the magical Gem of Seeing, "Would this suffice?"

Ghazrim rubbed his chin and replied, "Yes. Yes, I think we have an exchange."

Cordon interjected, "Wait."

Everyone paused.

"Gem of Seeing AND- an unspecified favor at some point in the future."

Ghazrim quickly countered, "The Gem of Seeing and you perform an unspecified favor for me at some point in the future? Absolutely!"

"No, the other way around. You will perform a favor for us!" Cordon looked resolute.

Ront's jaw fell agape.

For a fleeting second, a flash of anger flared across Ghazrim's face. He took a deep breath in order to return to his normally preternatural calm demeanor.

He smiled and chuckled, "You, sir, are obviously unfamiliar with the Zhentarim and our reputation! I would never agree to such vague conditions, besides," Ghazrim leaned forward and pressed his hands together to make his point, "that I am meeting with you now IS me repaying a favor." He nodded towards Ront and Willow.

Ghazrim stood and imperiously drew his cape about himself, "The deal is off. Our negotiations are over. My shield is not for sale." He clapped his hands and servants removed the wine and olives. Ghazrim stormed out of the pavilion without a farewell.

Willow held her forehead in her hand. Ront glared at Cordon. The priest slowly realized what had just happened.

There was a long silence as each member of the party quietly weighed their options.

Cordon finally broke the silence, "Well, I guess I messed that up."

Willow tried to reassure the priest, "Don't worry. I have a back-up plan. But that means we have to wait for Ser Valerius."

While discussing their options, Sladis Vadir stood at the entrance to the pavilion, looking through the flap. He told the others he had something to do and quietly slipped out. Ront and Feryl surreptitiously followed. The pair subsequently observed Sladis buying spices, being friendly with other merchants, squeezing their arm and shoulder, putting his arms aver their shoulders, and generally being very touchy.

"What he doing?" inquired Ront in a whisper.

"Don't you get it?" replied Feryl, "He's a thief. He's sizing up his marks."

The party spent the next  tridons as guests of the deep gnomes. Willow helped to fortify the deep gnome enclave by raising massive stone pylons and walls around their garden. She would occasionally use the Gem of Seeing to look for and frighten away any invisible duergar spying upon their work. Sladis used his druid powers to rebuild the deep gnome fungus garden.

During this time they learned about the trade situation in Mantol-Derith. The duergar and the deep gnomes were still not trading with each other. The chief negotiator of the duergar, Ghuldur Flagonfist, was still angry about the theft of his gem and the deep gnomes were still angry about the subsequent capture and execution of  their wizard Yantha Coaxrock, whom Ghuldur had correctly accused of the theft.

The Zhentarim and the drow had formed an alliance to take advantage of this situation. The alliance conspired to charge high prices and low bids to both sides.

Willow, Ront, and Cordon met to plan their next move. Sladis assumed he was now a part of the team and joined in the conversation.

"So, what's our next move?"

Everyone stopped. Willow cleared her throat. Ront bluntly declared, "You not part of team!"

Sladis was taken aback. "What? What is this? Have I done something to offend you?"

Ront glowered, "Ront not like you! Ront not trust you!"

Willow scratched the back of her head and Cordon looked away and whistled.

"Well," Sladis sputtered, "I- I can certainly see that my skills are not appreciated! There was no need to be so rude! I'll take my leave at once!"

Sladis turned and stormed out of the deep gnome enclave.

After they were sure he was gone, the team continued their deliberation. They needed to continue on to the Labyrinth. To reach it, they'd have to secure transportation across the Darklake to Gracklstugh.

The only boats going to Gracklstugh belonged to the duergar. Ront had earlier inquired about purchasing passage and was told that, due to their earlier involvement with the duergar/deep gnome altercation, the fare would be 100 gold pieces per passenger - an outrageous sum that would nearly deplete their reserve of gold coins.

Willow suggested a plan, "Let's see if we can't end this feud and maybe get us a discount on that passage."

Their next task required them to meet with Chief Negotiator Ghuldur Flagonfist of the duergar enclave. They were denied a meeting at the gate on the grounds that Ser Valerius and Ront had killed many duergar during their last encounter. Flagonfist did agree, however, to meet with Cordon who was not a party to the attack.

Before Cordon entered the duergar enclave, Willow cast a spell that allowed him to stay in telepathic contact with the rest of the party.

Cordon was led to Ghuldur's office. After a brief exchange where Cordon learned the origin of the duergar's antipathy towards the deep gnomes and the rest of the party, the priest came to realize that Ghuldur's obstinate behavior was the result of subtle madness, a lingering effect of the obsidian gem that once held the power of the demon lord Fraz-Urb'luu.

Cordon said a prayer of restoration and cured Ghuldur of his insanity. Ghuldur woke as if from a groggy dream. So cured, Cordon was able to persuade the duergar negotiator to resume trade with the deep gnomes and agreed to a price of 500gp for boat passage to Gracklstugh for the entire party.

Six tridons after they arrived in Mantol-Derith, Ser Valerius arrived. His arrival was heralded by the intense daylight of the sun-sword, Dawnbringer, filling the chamber with daylight.

Drow merchants and guards recoiled from the bright light as Ser Valerius held his shining energy sword aloft. Ser Valerius was riding his celestial lion and was accompanied by his henchmen, a handful of deep gnome guides, and a train of pack lizards.

The rest of the party ran forth to greet him. He told the others that he and Pain had stopped off in Blingdenstone on their way here and that Pain had stayed behind to take care of some business there. They brought Ser Valerius up to speed on what had happened since last they saw him in the Vast Oblivium.

Willow introduced Ser Valerius to Cordon and told him about the effort to retrieve the priest's holy shield, "Ser Valerius, we need your help."

A short while later, they had once more arranged a meeting with Ghazrim Duloc. This time, Duloc kept them waiting and provided no comfortable pillows upon which to sit and no olives or wine while they waited.

The merchant prince eventually came into the pavilion and impatiently asked what they wanted.

Willow explained that they had a new offer for the shield.

"I told you, it is no longer for sale," sighed the merchant.

"We do wish to purchase. We wish to trade. We have an item we believe you may be interested in acquiring for your collection. Would you be willing to trade the shield for the egg of a purple worm?"

Ghazrim froze in mid-thought. He eyed them suspiciously. "Only drow harvest the eggs of the great worms and they do not part with them."

"We have one for trade."

After some incredulous questions, Ser Valerius showed one of their eggs to Ghazrim. Ghazrim's cool demeanor gave way to giddy interest for the briefest of moments before he regained his composure.

"Yes, well, I think we agree to an exchange. The shield for the egg."

They clasped hands to seal the trade. Ghazrim clapped his hands and moments later servants brought the shield and took the egg away.

Thus re-equipped, the party left a message for Pain and set out for Gracklstugh

DM Note - How the heck much does a Purple Worm egg sell for? I dunno! What's their rarity? They seem relative rare but not unobtainable. I figured it was equivalent to a shielf worth 500 gp. I also figured it would be a good addition to Ghazrim's weird collection of pickled creatures. That's right, Ghazrim's gonna pickle that egg!

The journey over the Darklake was uneventful. The party was impressed by the duergar locks connecting two lakes of different elevation but they were otherwise unmolested.

During the journey they had the opportunity to learn of the situation in Gracklstugh from the boat's crew. They learned that Themberchaud, the red dragon responsible for keeping the most powerful forges of Gracklstugh alight, had learned of the plot to replace him with another more easily controlled dragon.

Themberchaud believed the Deep King still possessed the hatchling and demanded it be turned over at once. The Deep King tried to explain that no such hatchling existed but Themberchaud refused to accept the Deep King's word. At first the elder dragon demanded more tribute to keep the forges lit. The dragon's demands soon drained the city's depository. Enraged, the dragon refused his services.

The Deep King, in an effort to force the dragon's compliance, sent the Stone Giants  to subdue Themberchaud. Themberchaud retreated into the depths of his lair and collapsed the ceiling.

That was over a hundred tridons ago and the great forges remain unlit. Gracklstugh is getting by using lesser forges fueled by the blood of the Earth.

A reward has been offered for information regarding the location of the dragon. Ront and the others, knowing that the dragon hatchling had bonded to and now accompanied the renegade tiefling Virtue, pretended to know nothing.

The boat approached the docks and they were soon met by customs inspectors. The inspectors recognized Ront and agents of the secret police soon appeared to escort him to their leader Commander Errde Blackskull.

Commander Blackskull interrogated Ront about his presence in Gracklstugh. Ront answered truthfully that they were merely seeking to resupply and continue on to the Labyrinth. He asked permission to enter the city with the secret intent of meeting with the stone giants and possibly resolving the conflict with Themberchaud but his request was denied. 

The party left a message for Pain and immediately set out for the Labyrinth.

DM Note- My players HATE Gracklstugh. They all told Cordon's player what a crappy place it was.

The magical Tablet of Garmin hastened their journey and they arrived at the outer entrance to the Labyrinth in just over a tridon.

The Labyrinth was once a duergar mine that had long since been depleted and abandoned. Now it was a vast network of carved tunnels and passages that formed a complex maze of dead-ends and circuitous routes.

The entrance was covered with the carvings of horned bull heads and decorated with minotaur skulls and crude rock paintings of bulls' heads. The Labyrinth now belonged to the minotaurs.

The gate opened into a large chamber that had once been a quarry of some kind. The chamber was filled with carvings and statues, many half completed or broken to bits.

At the far end of the chamber was a wide pit, once the entrance into the mines. Adjacent to the pit was a tower made of the dark metal known as adamantine. The tower was smooth with no windows. It had a single door on the ground floor and another door in a protruding nodule at its top. The tower looked as if it had been dropped there from some height. The ground around the tower was compressed and flattened. All around the tower and on top of its battlements were crude statues like the others found throughout the chamber.

Ront and Ser Valerius tried to open bottom door with no success. Willow used the Gem of Seeing but could see no illusion. The tower was as it appeared to be. Willow flew Ront up to the top of the tower with her magical broomstick but the upper door was likewise unopenable.

Ront began playing with the statues. He put his hand in its mouth. He slapped it gently. He rubbed its face with his palm.

Suddenly the statue came to life and attacked, biting ront and clawing at him! The statues revealed their true form as gargoyles!

One gargoyle pushed Willow off of roof and flew away. She was caught by Valerius and the two tumbled to the ground. Willow grabbed Valerius and flew him to roof to help Ront. Afterwards she flew to a safe distance.

Ront quickly shattered both gargoyles on the roof with his great sword. Valerius dove off the tower and attacked one on the ground. Willow hurled a fireball which engulfed three of the stony beasts. Cordon called down a pillar of holy fire on one of the gargoyles. The remaining gargoyles ganged up on Cordon, surrounding him and laying into him with bites and claws. Thankfully Cordon was able to hold them off with his holy shield. Ront threw himself off the roof, landing with a hard thud on the ground, and joined the fight. All the gargoyles were soon defeated.

Afterwards, the party turned its attention once more to the impenetrable tower.

"Do you have any spells which might help?" inquired Valerius of Willow.

"Let me think about it," was her reply.

Ront mused, "Should we just skip it and go down hole?"

Valerius looked frustrated, "Not yet. This tower is an oddity. I don't want to just LEAVE it!"

"But what we do?"

Valerius mused.