D&D 5E: The Road Not Taken

Valrak'shi Journal Entry 2

I’m writing this note quickly before taking my rest for the night, thankful I am that one of the members of our party had some parchment and a quill so that I may jot down a count of my adventures, the brothers will undoubtedly enjoy a good read once I return.

Let’s start back a bit…

Leaving out early on the morning of the 4th day, we were lucky and found good spots to camp that night, as well as the night of the 5th day of travel. The two full days of travel seemed to bleed together as there wasn’t much talking, everyone intent on getting to their destination and carefully watching their footing. Throughout the two days there was never a sign of the two Deep Gnomes. Along the way I pondered their disappearance…were they trying to get away from the party for their own personal reasons? Were they trying to scout ahead? Were they led away by an unknown force? Or, could they have been malicious from the start, and this was their first opportunity to actually break free without having to explain to the rest of us what they were doing? All good questions, but questions without answers until we come across the diminutive little creatures.

As we made our way to an acceptable camping spot, I noticed the geography change…from the softer and wetter clay to much more solid bedrock. My senses tell me we are also now descending deeper into the Underdark.

Setting camp and taking turns at the watch, the night went by uneventfully.
Waking on the 6th day, we made our way in the same direction as the day before, mostly due Northwest towards Sloobludop, or so Shuushar insists. If he has malicious intent, he hides it well, but I won’t rule anyone out as I know a person’s true nature is not always worn on their sleeve. The tunnels have widened a bit and we are now able to travel in pairs side by side. I am up front, it seems logical given my ancestry and superior eyesight compared to my other comrades from the surface. I notice the many chutes that seem to be connecting into the tunnel we are following, almost as if giant ants or bees had made a maze of the area. I know the Underdark is full of tunnels, for many reasons, but I still keep my eyes peeled like usual, awaiting an unknown and unwelcome predator. Up ahead in the distance, after passing many such chutes, something caught my eye…movement, and something slightly hairy disappears up into a chute. I quickly called a stop to the caravan and alerted everyone to what I saw.
Inching forward carefully, I can just make out some clothing and what appears to be a Drow hand crossbow leaning against the wall and floor. Relaying the information, we look more closely and agree it seems like the clothing and items that our Deep Gnome companions were wearing. I wasn’t sure what to make of this pile…why would they shed their clothing and weapons willingly? On high alert now, I scan the area looking for potential threats and excited to have to do so. The monotony of the 2 day trek was wearing on me; my body was craving a challenge and I am eager to solve this puzzle! Looking back I noticed a strange look on Galathalas’ face, his head cocked slightly to the side as if he’s hearing something, but he said nothing to me so I assume he is once again having an internal conversation with himself.

Looking up the chute, I reflexively cast Dancing Lights up into the shaft to see what is to be seen. It goes up a bit but then turns, preventing us from really seeing anything further. The walls seem easy enough to climb though. Before we can attempt the climb, Stool puffs out his spores, allowing for easy communication among the entire party. As they drift up the shaft we can all hear another sound…could it be Topsy and Turvy? We ask them telepathically, “Topsy and Turvy!? Are you there? Are you hurt?”, and we can hear a reply back, as if they are speaking to us…but the thoughts are unintelligible in our heads.

Not sure what else to do, we decide to ascend the shafts and see what is up there. Derendil seems a likely person to start this up as his natural ability to scale walls would make him the most efficient.

He happily agrees and makes his way to the chute. Continuing to use the spores for communication, we follow his progress mentally as he ascends and rounds the corner, eventually coming out into a tunnel above that is similar to our own, but appears to open up more. He isn’t sure but he thinks he may have seen something at the far end of his vision.

Ian turns to Shuushar and asks, “Dos this tunnel above lead in the same direction as our current tunnel?”

“*Gurgle* I know not this tunnel’s path, I’ve only been on the way we travel now, but if it runs along above us it may very well gurgle end in the same location…and it may be a dead end after days of travel,” Shuushar responds in his watery voice.

The party agrees that we could at least check it out and return back down to our current path should we need to. One by one we start to climb, making our way up top.

Once there we spread out and keep our eyes peeled, moving forward, I also see something scamper away right at the edge of my vision. We move forward, sending the lights out and around as far as able, hoping to shine a dim light on anything lurking in the shadows. The area is much, much larger than we initially thought…walking along a walkway across a ravine that goes down to large pools of luminescent water, a ceiling soaring higher than we can see. We slowly make our way across the natural rock bridge, only to be taunted another time by the barely seen movement of two creatures at the edge of our vision.

After two such instances of this cat-and-mouse routine, we all feel that we’re being toyed with. We don’t know if it’s Topsy and Turvy under a spell, or if it’s them at all, but our instincts are telling us to not follow any further. We start making our way back and will just have to trust that the Deep Gnomes had their reasons for their departure…if these creatures are them, then we are better off without them, and if not we should continue on in hopes of running into them.

Once back to the shafts, we descend one by one with Galathalas being the last one down. I was the second one down, immediately after Derendil, and noticed that Gal wasn’t down right after Ian. Just then, I heard a yell from above, obviously one of concern from the sound of the voice, Gal’s voice. I am not as near a chute as the others who came down behind me, so Ian and Lutien ascend before I can. While they are climbing up one chute I pick anohther near and with all haste spiderclimb up it as quickly as possible, my shortsword dangling from my side as my fingers search for grooves in the rock wall one after the other. Once I get there, I find what seems to be some sort of ethereal demon. Not knowing what I’m dealing with but knowing those that depend on the darkness don’t appreciate the light, I reached down into my Drow heritage and casts Faerie Fire across the head and shoulders of the demon nearest my companions. There’s a viscous glob on the ground, apparently Gal tried to restrain it but it seems to have slipped through…and during the fight, I noticed Lutien draw and fire an arrow off into the distance, to a secondary enemy apparently, but follows up the shot with a frustrated sound, apparently having not hit his mark. These demons it would seem take more than a mundane weapon to slay them because it’s highly unlikely Lutien missed his mark…

Ian steps up next, brandishes his sword and holy symbol and barks out a quick spell, then slices across the fiend’s midsection, scoring a hit with his enchanted weapon. The wound didn’t seem to look bluish like other wounds have when hit with his rapier, I make sure to make a mental note for the future that these spawn may ignore damage of the cold variety.

Not wasting any time, I step forward, feint to the right side with my shortsword held low, then pivot around and make an upward slash along the left flank of the ghastly demon, it wails out as the magical weapon strikes true. My instinct is to lash out with a roundhouse as well, but I know before striking that my training hasn’t progressed to the point that my body would do much good against the likes of such a being. Pulling back, I draw some of the Ki forward from my abdomen to prepare for a dodge should the beast or his ally decide to attack my way next.

At that moment, Eldeth comes barreling out of one of the chutes and charges headlong for the creature. She chants in Dwarvish as she gets close and her shield appears to hum with power, extending slightly as she gets closer. She slashes out at the beast, further damaging its shadowy flesh. It wails in protest as it turns to her.

Galathalas moves slightly from behind his cover to lash out with an Eldritch Invocation, sharp words slither through the air as a bolt of energy blasts from his hands and beam unerringly into the chest of the rather worn looking demon. It shrieks and falls back a step, not defeated but looking worse for wear, and much, much angrier.

Before the demon can re-orient itself, Ian steps forward and slashes out again at the demon, this time though the demon doesn’t fair as well. With a magic infused voice it seems, Ian screams out “THE POWER OF KELEMVOR COMPELS YOU!!” and his sword nearly hums with divine energy as he brings it crashing down on the demon. The radiant infused weapon seemed to part the upper half of the beast from his lower half, cleaving him right in two, ending the fight as abruptly as it began.

Seeing the radiant glow and wanting no part of it, the other demon screeches off into the northern passage, away from the party.

With no time to catch our breath, we descend once again, this time with Galathalas in the lead only to see the demon that left, buzz by us more quickly than we can react, down the chute and back down the tunnel from which we came. We know not what it was after or why it was going that way, but we decide to cut our losses and move on in the original direction with all haste. We are curious as to what has transpired with the two Deep Gnomes, but we felt it prudent to move ahead. On top of it, there’s a curious sound that we can all hear, that of kids crying, voices drifting in and out with no apparent source…something none of us can explain, and none are too eager to try and track it down, so we make our way forward.

We traveled ahead at a normal pace, looking for a decent spot to camp but failed to find even a remotely defensible position. Several of the party members looked worn and weary but we had to push on. After another 7 hours we came across a spot that would work well enough for the night. Taking our turns at watch, we decide to take shifts of two in case of a problem. I plan to take my watch with Buppido, and both of us agree that it could be beneficial to keep ourselves as hidden as possible to be able to give surprise to their enemies should one attempt an attack during the night. The plan is to sit far enough apart to not be in each other’s way should a fight erupt, but close enough for some very quiet conversation while on duty…

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Valrak'shi Journal Entry 3

I wanted to take this opportunity to document what has transpired since last I wrote. It hasn’t been that long but we have learned of a few interesting things of note.

We left camp early on the 7th day of travel. Shuushar informed us we were no more than a day from the shores of Darklake, which was nice to hear. Sometimes the seemingly never-ending paths in the Underdark can become monotonous, a change of scenery is always welcome…although not so welcome is his suggestion as to how we should enter Sloobludop. Swimming. Being a Kuo-toa I suppose he doesn’t consider that not all races swim as easily as his own. Maybe I should ask him to climb a rope for me with his aquatic hands? Somehow I think the sarcasm would be lost on him.

We made our way forward towards our destination with nothing but our darkvision and Shuushar to guide us. We made it to the shores of Darklake with no incident to speak of, but were unsure as to how best to proceed. Shuushar’s swimming suggestion was out of the question, and his other ideas of floating on a hollowed out mushroom or waiting an undetermined amount of time for a boat to pass by seemed at the least unhelpful. I would prefer not to be in the middle of the water with limited mobility, an easy target for any predatory being in the depths below! My companions all seem to echo this line of thinking so we choose to follow a path to the side of the lake, to make our way there by foot. It is a bit slower, but seems much more reasonable of a path for this party.

After a bit of travel we come across another similar shoreline, also with no boat conveniently waiting for us. But we do find movement across the way…so Gal and I stealth across to try and get a better understanding of who is potentially waiting for us. Hearing Kuo-toa sounds along with weapons sliding and nets jostling, it’s clear that they are out to catch and or kill versus have a conversation. We return to our party to inform them of what is waiting for us. Shuushar sees this as a good opportunity to try and spread his message. He strides out towards them while we hide in the shadows, not wanting to give away our specific position or numbers.

They emerge quickly and with obvious purpose, I can barely make out a bit of Undercommon as he tries to talk to them…but they still tie him up. There’s one that seems to be the leader of the group, so I make sure to keep my eyes on him. Hoping to diffuse this situation without all-out combat, Gal went forward and used a bit of his psychic abilities to project into their minds a message to back down, but they were too deep into their belief system to stand down. They mention a Deep Father as the one they worship, and they need offerings to him…which sounded like a pretty horrible idea to us! Gal uses his viscous wand to immobilize the leader and we all take to fighting the lesser Kuo-toa, all except Buppido it seems.

Once the fight is over, the leader is still stuck, three of them have fled and the rest are dead at our feet. We try to make a deal with the leader but his words ring hollow… Ian decides to tie up a loose end by executing him so that he won’t be a potential hindrance to us in the future. This may seem harsh to some, but it makes sense to me, they did intend to capture us and offer us up as fodder for their Deep Father. In my experience with followers of just about any God, they tend to be hard to shake from their beliefs once indoctrinated into said path. Ian takes care of the leader and we move out towards the city, down the same path two of the Kua-toa fled.

Before moving out though, we question Buppido as to his lack of fighting in the recent encounter…it seemed he could have been more helpful. Since my watch with him, I have had my eyes on him. He seems a good sort, but almost too much so…makes me wonder if he is actually attempting to trade us in as he specializes in getting people things they need, who’s to say we aren’t those things? Ian gives Buppido a quick lesson in the crossbow so that next time he’ll have no excuse but to help out.

Into the tunnels we went, not long either when we run across the same two that fled, only they’re bound on a rock. Around them stand a contingent of Kuo-toa who appear to be garbed slightly differently. In the middle is a person of whom they must look up to based on how they show him deference. We send Buppido forward to talk with them since that is supposedly his specialty.

A short while later he returns, Stool is quick to release spores into the air and we all communicate openly. They are the rival faction in the city, those that worship the Sea Mother, a belief system that has been around longer apparently, and a rival to the Deep Father. The archpriest, Plooploopeen, wants to unite the city under the Sea Mother as he feels it should be…but first he must slay or convert the Kuo-toa currently worshipping the Deep Father. His own daughter carries the title of leader among them, but he seems not the least bit shaken by the fact of slaying his own daughter. Knowing what I know of the race, it doesn’t surprise me either. Not so different from Drow of course, which is why they tend to have an understanding in the depths of the world below.

We follow them back as he says he has a proposition for us. He wants to get close to the Deep Father worshippers and slay the head of the order. In order to do this he needs humanoid sacrifices, and we just happen to fit that bill nicely. He says we can keep our weapons of course, we’re just used as bait to get them all together…at which point we’ll be all out fighting I would suspect. He also mentions rewarding us as well. I care not of the gold and baubles, but curious as to what type of items they may have “acquired” down here over the years…

Ploop tells us he has sent word of the offering and it has been accepted, the meeting is to commence shortly. We are all taking a brief rest before what is sure to be all-out combat. As I put my quill and book away, my mind is already diving into the depth of my meditation, I must be ready.

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Valrak'shi Journal Entry 4

I jot these notes down quickly but my mind is elsewhere. I’ve seen things recently that cannot be unseen. I don’t feel I can yet go into great detail, I am still processing the trauma, but I wanted to make a quick note as a marker so that I can explain to you, my brothers, once we are again all together.

Ploop lead us out near the altars, rallied his people and hers alike with the speech that we would be sacrifices for the Deep Father, all the while his people were interweaving among those they planned to slay. They positioned us upon a grate that, if shifted, would drop us to what undoubtedly would have been our deaths below. I am a competent swimmer, but knowing now what I know lurked in those waters….there would have been no escape.

The false sacrifice went off as planned with Ploop’s daughter Blop falling for the trickery as easy as one might trick a dim-witted kobold. Her faith and lust for her deity allowed her guard to fail, which made it almost too easy for Ploop to deliver the crushing blow from his scepter. Fighting immediately broke out between those following Ploop and those following Blop, but it was a losing battle for Blop as she and her followers were severely outnumbered. Little did we know at the time…it was a losing battle for all.
There were a handful of Kuo-toa left around us, those that lead us out towards the altar, but we dispatched them without much trouble. During this battle, we heard sounds from the water’s edge…looking out we notice a giant creature apparently under the water, thrashing about and killing any and all Kuo-toa that happened to be in it. It seemed not to care whether they were followers of the Deep Father or Sea Mother. We quickly disengage from the battle and make our way back to the hut we were in initially, hoping to re-group and determine our next course of action.

After this, it gets…well…I can hardly even write it.

As I dip the tip into the ink a second time, I find myself shaking and have to calm myself with deep breathing. After we returned to the hut, I went to look out of the door to determine the status of the fight, but I saw something horrible rising from the depths. I have no fear of death, only a fear of a life not fully lived. But, looking upon this beast, this demon…I could think of hardly anything but retreat. Retreat from the fight. Retreat from the Underdark. Retreat from my own mind…something about it tore into my very being and shocked me as I’ve never been struck before…and the result was, well I’m not even embarrassed to say, simply looking upon the beast forced my brain to shut down. I don’t remember anything more at that time, but woke a while later in the outer tunnels away from the Kuo-toa settlement. I know from my companions that they basically grabbed as much loot as they could from the hut, grabbed Shuushar and ran for their lives from the beast that was coming from the water, apparently destroying everything in sight. I was lucky that Derendil was there and could easily carry me. I do not like being helpless, relying on others so, but I understand that in life we all need a hand at times, and in the future I will return him the favor.

We traveled for quite a while until we found a beach area and a few boats we could use to traverse the Darklake. Shuushar is confident he knows where he is going and how best to get to Gracklstugh from here. He seems a bit different…I believe even his passive nature has been shaken into a slightly different way of thinking. Enlightenment doesn’t always come from avoiding trauma; sometimes it’s the cleansing of pain that teaches us truly.

We camped for the night and all are feeling better, with the exception of course to the minor but ever-present nagging in the bag of my mind…those faces of that beast, cresting the water. It will take many hours of meditation to even have a chance of overcoming those memories.

Off we sail, Shuushar tells us it should take about 20 days to reach the Duergar city. I will write more later as I expect there to be plenty of downtime while on the boat.

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Valrak'shi Journal Entry 5

It has been three days since I last recorded my thoughts. This day has been a very long day of rowing, but finally we have found a location that seems to be safe for a good rest and for hunting fresh mushrooms.

When last I wrote, we had just put onto Darklake. Traveling on the Darklake is different than on the seas aboveground as there are only subtle currents here and there, mostly just still water, and obviously no wind. In order to get anywhere it is mostly up to us to paddle. Luckily for us Shuushar is familiar with the Lake and the area, he assists putting us into a minor current that helps in our paddling. We found a boat, a raft and a mushroom and we tied them all together with a rope in a line with the boat in the lead.

The first day of travel is pretty uneventful up until near the end. Shuushar was following Duergar runes etched in the cavern walls when he failed to see a stalagmite rising from the stagnant waters. At this point, Lutien has passed out from ingesting the water accidentally; he’s curled in a heap on the floor of the boat. We smacked into the stalagmite, one of our vessels going one way, one another and catching us upon the middle. Galathalas and Stool were near an edge and both toppled into the waters. I used my rope to toss him a line and pull him in. Before we can get them totally in the boat, darkness drops from the sky.

A creature that I recognize from my readings of the Underdark (but had yet to run into one) to be a Darkmantle falls upon Eldeth and covers the entire top of her body, completely. I try to hurry and get Gal pulled in the boat when we hear the bones snapping and Eldeth stops moving. Looking above Gal sees 2 more of the beasts preparing to descend. They use their innate powers to drop a globe of darkness around them. As the darkness glides down Jimjar takes a shot at the one holding Eldeth, hoping to save her before it’s too late. Ian takes a shot at one of the descending dark spots, blind but hopeful, but shot comes out the other side of the blackness missing its quarry.

At this point Gal is back on the boat and casts Shatter upon the two in the sky. Hitting one squarely it drops from the sky into the water, the other takes damage but maintains its glide towards the boat. I jumped forward to where Eldeth was and lashed out with my shortsword, slaying the one still holding Eldeth…but it was too late, her essence had already left her body. Galathalas kills the last with a blinding blast of Eldritch Blast.
After the battle is over, Ian performs last rites for Eldeth and we sink her to the bottom of the Darklake. He had promised her he would return her shield and hammer to her people and so he will, storing her gear along with his things.

We untethered the boats to get around the obstacle, then reconnected on the other side, continuing on our way. We traveled for a few more long hours until we came across a Duergar-built mechanism that looks to have been designed to control water flow. We found a ledge to rest on while manipulating the levers to allow us passage through once we were done.

Day two started out well, everyone was well rested and ready to continue on. Having rowed most of the day before, I traded places with Jimjar and took a seat in the back with Gal. While sitting I kept a vigilant eye on the waters behind, just in case. It was a good thing…it seems we were being followed. I couldn’t tell what it was, but it was not far below the surface and in my experience, few things stalking you in the Underdark means you anything but ill. I figured it best to strike first, casting Faerie Fire on it I limned it with a bluish fire, highlighting it so that everyone could see exactly what we were dealing with.

The beast jumps up out of the water, lashing out with his claws he strikes true. I attempt to dodge but fail, taking a couple of nasty gashes across the chest and arms. Now that we can see what it is we can tell it’s an aquatic troll. A nasty creature for sure, and not one to be taken lightly as they are known for the evil nature and healing abilities.
Galathalas wasted no time dipping into his knowledge of troll lore, he casted a spell on the troll that took form as an icy hand, clutching and squeezing. I would later learn that this spell prevented the creature from regenerating as they are known to do. A handy spell indeed! After his spell, Ian jumped back to our mushroom boat and infused me with healing power, of which I was grateful. I dare so I could not have handled another slash like the previous, my wounds were bleeding out. Lutien, awake and rested today after the sickness yesterday let fly arrows, 3 in total into the beast. Oh how it wailed and thrashed!! And then, out of nowhere I see Derendil above me…the Prince must have leaped directly over us, enraged as he was to land upon the troll. They traded slashes back and forth as the rest of us continue to hit him for all we have. Eventually the light fades from his eyes as he slips out into the water, sinking down as the Faerie Fire eventually winks out from around his shoulders, abandoning the corpse to total darkness.

We quickly pulled Derendil back in the boat and set to tending our wounds. Ian uses more of his restorative magic to knit flesh and bone for Derendil as his breathing slows and he settles down after the encounter. Afterward we head out once again, slightly worn but feeling good about the encounter and keeping a wary eye all around. The rest of the day is uneventful, but as we near the end of day the water turns cleaner as we near what we assume is a type of spring.

Day 3 starts brighter than any day so far, there was light coming in from the many different mushrooms and lichen scattered about, and the water seemed to move a bit more, it felt more like being close to the surface than it has since setting out on Darklake. After several hours of travel, the ceiling started creeping lower and lower until at last we were forced to lie down in the boat to simply get by. Shuushar assured us this was the correct path and that he could successfully navigate through the tunnels. This lasted for about 2 hours before we could sit up once again.

Later on in the day as we travel through one of the many passageways in the labyrinth-like nest of tunnels, we see some bat-like creatures on the ceiling. Thinking we may want to avoid the fight if possible, I cast Silence and Darkness on our group to assist in sneaking by. Tymora was with us as we made it through unnoticed and unharmed. Gal used his Devil’s Sight to navigate and Stool allowed us to communicate as we went through blind.

And the end of a long day 3, we make our way into a nexus of sorts. A cavern that opens up a bit where many passages connect to it, with an island in the middle. Around we see mushrooms and as defensible of an area as we can expect. Shuushar tells us he was here many years ago and suggests we take this opportunity to rest. I checked the area for edible mushrooms, finding nearly 14 lbs which should help us in our future days upon the Lake! The Trilomack mushrooms are kind of a leathery meat but they will suffice, once properly prepared and soaked. I start the process of preparing these and as an afterthought hollow out the cap to allow us an extra 2 gallons of fresh water on the boat.

I must stop writing now, my eyes are blurry and my mind is exhausted. I still must take my turn at watch later in the night and want to make sure to get plenty of rest for the trials ahead. Losing Eldeth was noticeable within our group…the morale took a hit I can sense, and I’m keeping my eyes on our surface friend Lutien who seemed to be feeling the Underdark more than most. However, he seems to be in better spirits and I can’t help but think it’s because he has a sense of purpose now. At every opportunity I notice him working with his bow, fashioning new arrows and apparently learning which materials in the Underdark work the best for his fletching. This is good. It is important to focus on what keeps you sane when in the deep dark. That mental focus will help us all survive.

Tomorrow we continue on to Gracklstugh, a city not known for its niceties, but a city that I’m sure we can leave a mark on, one way or another.

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Valrak'shi Journal Entry 6

The morning of the 4th day of travel, we noticed something…different about Buppido. I am only going into it in writing because I don’t fear him accidentally seeing this as I plan to confront him about it. While discussing Gracklstugh with Lutien, I noticed his eyes blink horizontally. I may not know everything about his race, but I’m fairly confident that isn’t one of their traits…so now we must wonder what it is actually traveling with us, because whoever “Buppido” is, he seems not to be a true Derro.

That oddity aside, he is quite full of information on Gracklstugh, assuming we can trust that information to be accurate and with our best interest at heart. And honestly, regardless of his race, as long as he continues to aid us I welcome his company and insight into the unknown areas. If he should at some point decide he no longer needs us and attempt to turn on us, he will not like the outcome.

During his talks he tells us of the city, that it’s mainly a city of weaponsmithing and trade from all over, World Above and the Underdark. Also a key point, it’s a city with a bustling slave trade. Should we seem weak or easy targets we may catch the eyes of those wishing to make coin from selling us. I for one have been a slave one too many times for my liking and will plant my shortsword deep inside anyone attempting to do so again.

After a brief discussion about our companion in disguise, Gal wants to try to verify his information with regards to Gracklstugh. He drills him with many questions trying to get him to slip up, but Buppido doesn’t seem to falter under the interrogation. A couple things to note about Gracklstugh though; Grollbronze (sp?) Lair is where outsiders tend to go, and they have a dragon that lives among the citizens that stokes their fires as needed. Outsiders are not typically welcome deeper into the city, so we must tread carefully no matter our path.

Before we left from the island, Ian cast a spell to detect the presence of evil, just in case Buppido was something more nefarious like we… <catches>… like we saw at the Kua-toa village. He showed no signs of a demonic taint, however, the island was aglow with negative energy he informed us. This may help explain the haunted dreams I had the night before…crazy, angry, evil dreams… of which I was glad to be away from come morning.

We left out and had an uneventful day on the boats, all the while Jimjar and Derendil gambled to pass the time. Ian had a purify food spell handy to make sure the fish Shuushar and I caught were edible, and we actually ate and rested quite well that day.

On the 5th day of our journey, we came into a spring-fed area, allowing us to refill our water. A welcome sight indeed in the Underdark! From here though…it seems our guide somewhat failed us. He has seemed quite sure most of the journey, but he embarrassingly admits he isn’t sure which way to go and fears we took a wrong turn. We choose to go ahead and eventually Shuushar sees another Duergar rune. At the same moment, Galathalas seems to find humor in something, I know not what, but I’ve almost gotten used to his chaotic outbursts…I fear for his mind as he seems to be slipping further down the longer we go.

We make camp finally and take our turns at watch, all goes fine until Shuushar and Lutien take their turn. I am awoke with a start to find Lutien firing at some sort of monster that I am not familiar with (I have since learned it is called a “Grell” from Shuushar). At the time, Shuushar was nowhere to be seen, but Lutien woke us from our slumber to assist in the killing of the beast. After the creature is slain, Lutien quickly runs to the water’s edge and tells us that Shuushar was attacked and tossed into the water so we quickly search the waters for him, to no avail. Then, out of nowhere he shows up behind us, apparently startling Gal who reaches out and attacks him. Luckily for us Shuushar was tough enough to handle the blast, we would have been even more lost should our guide have been slain! Ian helps to patch him up afterward and we head out a bit earlier than expected on the 6th day of our journey.

We are now sitting in our boats, in the water, in a huge vault area, the water is stagnant and still…it seems a great place for a leviathan to rise up and make of us a quick meal! There is a boat a long way in the distance, but we can’t make out who or what they are, and thus far they seem not to be taking note of us. I will put my quill away now, to be ready should something strike.

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Valrak'shi Journal Entry 7

As we moved forward through the stagnant water, I notice a couple of our companions acting…strange. Ian seemed to have an uncontrollable fit of emotion, crying and rocking back and forth as if in the throes of some dreadful misery while Lutien was apparently attempting to eat any piece of wood he could find at hand. Nothing seemed to snap them out of it but time, so I watched on and made sure they did nothing to actually cause themselves harm. Eventually it passed but it made me nervous…I was continually looking around and over my shoulders for some outside source that would cause such an affliction. I have spent nearly my entire life in the Underdark and never have I seen it affect someone in such a way. Could it perhaps be related to the demons we have seen throughout our journey? Or perhaps Buppido or Derendil? All things to keep in mind and be aware of…

Shuushar eventually found some more Duergar runes and, feeling confident once again he eagerly led us forward. The path became darker and darker as we left the illuminating glow of the Faerzress. We came upon an intersection of passageways, a spoke of sorts, all going in different directions and all a snug fit. While stopped at one of these intersections Galathalas noticed that we had a small split in our boat. Apparently when we ran upon that stalactite days ago, damage was done and has since been slowly getting worse. The leak isn’t immediately disturbing, but would need to be tended! He shoots a glob of viscous gel on it to give it a temporary fix until we can find a proper place to enact repairs.

After several hours of travel we came into an area that would be clear enough, and dry enough for some repairs on the boat. Lutien is fairly certain he can use a type of resign boiled of fish bladders to seal the crack, and after many hours of fishing, boiling, and one unsuccessful attempt at repairs, we finally have a boat that seems to be sea-worthy once again.

We headed back out and spent the next two days in absolute darkness, close walls, a narrow tunnel…It didn’t bother me as this isn’t uncommon in the Underdark, but I could hear Lutien and Ian’s breathing throughout and it seemed it may have been affecting them towards the end. Those of the light above really aren’t meant to be spend extended periods of time in the Underdark, it changes you in ways you can’t explain. I don’t believe Galathalas even noticed the difference, whether that is from his ability to see more clearly than the others or simply because he feels darker on the inside, I know not.

On our 10th day of travel, we finally emerged into an open area. You can feel the gust of fresh air, aromatic and humid. You could smell different mushrooms and the Faerzress was everywhere. After the previous two days, the sense of relief was palpable among the crew, and we quickly set to rowing more quickly towards our intended destination; a series of islands ahead.

Three islands to be exact; one bigger one towards the back and 2 smaller ones on each side. On the larger island I could see a small hut, made of what looked to be a type or many types of mushrooms. I asked Shuushar but he was not familiar with this area or this hut, but whatever lived there was something to be aware of.

Edging closer onto the island, I carefully stealthed towards the hut. Not long into the trek I notice many of the mushrooms are Timisk, a well-known and highly dangerous mushroom that can expel a 15 foot cloud of poisonous spores into the air. I quickly made my way back to warn my companions to tread carefully, then made my way up to the hut.

As I pulled closer to the house, it seemed the only entrance into the house would be a small porthole of a window. Obviously, the owner has another way in unless they step inside through magical means. Carefully looking into the house through one such window I make out many herbs and mushrooms, animals hanging from the walls, apparently drying…tables and flasks, parchments, clothing, tomes, containers and many different types of skeletons hanging. In the center of the room is a grate with access to the lake it seems, this must be how the person enters and exits I assume.

After learning as much as possible from the hut, I carefully made my way back to my companions and shared with them what I saw. Jimjar wants to bet 10 gold pieces that the owner of the house is a hag, and having little experience with betting I decide to take him up on that bet. Why not, it’s only money, right?

After having determined a path to the hut and back, it was apparent to me that some of our less nimble teammates may have difficult time making the trek without potentially setting off a gaseous mushroom. We decided to retreat back a ways to the first island and watch the hut to see who comes and goes. While there Ian looked around for some edible mushrooms, having picked up on what is good and bad by now, the team seems to be gaining more confidence with their abilities foraging in the Underdark.

Galathalas, Stool and I kept watch for several hours before we saw a boat making their way from the left tunnel up behind the larger island. It is an oblong almond shaped vessel, and appears to be a slender female navigating the boat. She docked on the far side of the island with the hut, she exited her boat…at which we lose sight of her because of our line of sight. Several minutes later we notice a calm glow coming from inside the hut so we assume she has made it inside…but who, or what…is this creature?

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Valrak'shi Journal Entry 8

I quickly jot this down as we are pressed for time, but I wanted to make note in case something happened to me. For those that follow behind and find my story, beware the exploding mushrooms!

We came upon an area with 3 islands, 2 of similar size and one larger island with a hut on it seemingly made from mushrooms. Upon closer inspection, after carefully navigating my way through the dangerous maze of lethal mushrooms, it appeared to be occupied by a female Drow. Sneaking back I informed my comrades of the situation and we all decided to take the boat around the edge and approach the building in the open so as to not seem like as much of a threat.

Lutien and the rest of the party stayed back while Gal, Ian and I made our way by boat to the opposite side of the island. Along the way we notice the waves are…different. The water doesn’t respond like normal water and I’m not quite sure why, but I am wary and on guard. We dock beside the boat of the female Drow we saw enter from the North. Noticing her robes it’s clear she’s a follower of Lloth, her robes also giving away she is from Menzoberranzan. And, if memory serves, the symbol in the boat is of Fallax which is Fae. We must be wary indeed with these two things so near! At that point we didn’t know how incapacitated the priestess would be, but after Gal spoke to her mind to mind, we realized our best chance to get in the hut was now.

Gal decides to be chivalrous (and a bit more insane I am inclined to think), picking a bouquet of mushrooms that resemble flowers to give to the awaiting Drow. From my earlier inspection of the house, we know there is no obvious entry, but can tell via a porthole in the structure that entry is most likely gained through underwater access. We notice the occupant seemingly lost in her own erotic machinations, possibly “trippin’ ballz” (a term I once read while referencing a Harpell manuscript, I am not sure if I used it properly). Making haste I make my way underwater with Ian and we come up through the bottom of the hut. Lifting ourselves onto the floor she takes no notice of us, but we notice Gal has successfully fixed her in place with his wand in case she were to attack.

Looking around we see the many things I have already made note of previously; books, vials, potions, obviously someone lives here and maintains it well, but it doesn’t seem to be the priestess. We soon find the true owner…

Gal makes his way underwater (leaving Stool up top) and we all take a look around the hut as quickly as possible. We find that the priestess is quite pregnant, and we soon find her in actual childbirth. She seems to be from the family Vrinn and her name is Myra.
We noticed two aquatic creatures sinking our boat but failed to get to them in time…as I write this I hope we can commandeer the two vessels now docked on this island. Oh, I have gotten ahead of myself!

While trying to figure out what is happening with the priestess, Gal uses Eldritch Blast to blow a hole in the south wall. I step outside to keep watch, and during this time an elderly looking woman approaches the hut, obviously the hut’s owner. She appears to be fae so I proceed with caution outside. She comes into her hut and seeing us demands to know why we are there. Gal explains that he heard someone crying out and came in to help the Drow, but the Hag seems not to believe this. She makes mention of someone in our party being the death of us, someone we should be very wary of…and then makes mention of us not leaving this area alive. Taking that as a threat and erring on the side of caution, I cast Silence on the room while Gal globs her in one place.

After a bit we realize she needs to help with the delivery of the baby that is now ready to be brought into this world so I drop the Silence spell…but not quite trusting the Hag or the Priestess (although the latter seems far enough gone to be of little threat at this moment).

After releasing her she attends the birthing and it’s obvious at once she’s having twins. We aren’t quite sure what to expect, will the Hag take kindly to us in her house? Will she understand from which we come and how much worse we could have responded? Will be learn who in our party is likely to backstab us? All will be known in due time.

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Valrak'shi Journal Entry 9

After the hag dealt with the birthing, she seemed eerily quiet…looking at the Drow priestess on the floor, we see her chanting or mumbling incomprehensibly. Trying to stay on our toes we prepare for whatever demonic spell she or the hag may be casting, but nothing seems to happen.

Moments later, we notice an object on the ceiling of the cavern. It seemed to be made of mist, and making its way above us…the hag upon noticing then quickly casts some type of spell and vanishes from sight. Looking around, she’s not to be found…but the entity, a tree-shaped being it seems, coalesces into a solid form and drops down in the middle of us. Reacting as if we’re being attacked…because it seemed such, we quickly learn that it is much tougher than it appears. After trading blows and moving out of its way, we realize it is a summoned being that the Drow must have been calling in her mind-altered state. Ian took the brunt of the attack, nearly knocking him out…but once we realized it was just trying to get to its master, we made way for it and fell back.

Once all of the fighting was over, the hag appeared again and prepared to take care of the 2 children. We found out that the Drow made a deal with the Hag to help her deliver the babies…apparently twins are rare and they often end up killing off the weaker one in the womb, and the hag bartered her services with curses for ownership of one of the children. This may sicken some, but I am not surprised by this as my own history isn’t far from such a tale. Who births you is irrelevant; who raises you is another story. I know not what the Hag needs with such a child…

We find out a couple of interesting facts upon talking to the Hag. Apparently, while we were here on the island talking to the Hag, Lutien inadvertently shot down her familiar. Not knowing what it was lurking on the ceiling, one can understand his action! It appears to be capable still though, so luckily no serious or lasting harm was done. I imagine the Hag wouldn’t have been very welcoming had we destroyed her familiar…

The last thing we learn from the hag is somewhat disturbing…she wants to make a deal with us, as hags are wont to do. She will aid us in escaping this region, but in return she wants her hut repaired and to leech certain fluids from particular party members. This doesn’t sit well with me… and at the time of this writing, I am already back on our southern island with the other party members, I have just watched Galathalas go with her, for what exact purpose I cannot say. Galathalas isn’t the most trusting or open, not that I blame him, we all consort with the likes of those we cannot trust, or dare not. We shall see upon his return what stories he brings… until then, I will watch as the Merro under the Hag’s control lift our boats from the waters to once again be ready to go should we need a hasty exit.

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Valrak'shi Journal Entry 10

I find myself once again with a few moments to spare, so I shall make note as fast as possible.

I left off with Galathalas leaving with the Hag…he returned a while later with a disturbing look upon his face, but kept to himself even more than normal obviously not wanting to share what transpired.

For some reason, the madness seems to be settling into Lutien…he was found diving into the water and swimming down, un an unknown pull of sorts it seems. Shuushar was quick to assist and pulled him from the water. He seemed disoriented and had no idea why he would do such a thing. Luckily for him he was wearing his Necklace of Adaptation, else he may have drown in pursuit of who knows what.

The Hag approached me not long after, requesting that I visit her abode. She says she needs something from a couple of us before giving us information to help us leave the cavern. I trust her not one bit, but I feel my options are limited as we need assistance leaving the area. I reluctantly agree to accompany her, and luckily Ian also asked to come with, to which she agrees.

Upon getting to her hut, she seems to take an unnatural interest in my skin, commenting on its pigment and hue, how “different” it is…then she lays out her real request; she wants a sample of my skin. I am not comfortable with this idea at all..what would she use it for? Can she control me after sampling it? Create a clone of me? Replace me from afar? Either way I feel there’s little option as we need her help. Before agreeing I ask for her to give us some information that is helpful to prove it’s not for ill (assuming you can even trust her information!). She pulls out a red and black velvet cloth and shows us a spherical item that I believe is a Hag Stone. Concentrating on it for a few moments, she looks up and informs us that the Priestess that was here earlier has since informed her fellow Drow of our location and there is currently a Drow raiding party on their way to find us. Figuring this is the best we’ll get for now, I agree to her terms.
I lie down on the bed and she inspects me further, places a stick across my mouth to bite down on and prepares to give me a type of numbing liquid. I refuse preferring the pain to whatever the concoction might actually do. I steal my mind for what I know will be one of the most unpleasant events of my life. Focusing my will I stare into myself and ignore the pain of her fileting my skin as long as my will will allow…only to falter mid-way and scream out in agony. The torture, for that is what it feels like, lasts only a short while and she applies a salve to my wound to help heal it. It leaves a scar, deep and red. Ian was kind enough to cast some divine heals into my arm, further helping the pain subside and reducing the scar somewhat.

Afterward we made our way back to the southern island, only to find Lutien once again in the water. I figure he may need some looking after as he’s obviously not in his right mind, so quickly quaffing my only potion of water breathing I tie my rope onto Ian’s rope and dive in where we last saw Lutien. Ian is holding the furthest end so I know I have a good 100 feet before running out of slack. Diving down it search through the darkness with my light cantrip, back and forth until I spot Lutien. He seems to be standing on the prow of a sunken ship, surrounded by many other ships of various sizes and shapes. It seems something, or someone, sank these ships over the course of years. So many litter the bottom…and since the water breathing spell is still in place, and Lutien seems to fine (and more aware of his surroundings now), we decide via a few nods to search the wreckage. Off in the distance at the edge of my lights I see Shuushar inspecting the boats as well, apparently enjoying the distraction from our day to day routine of fighting and traveling.

One the 4th ship I search I find a body that has been mutilated by either time or spell…possibly both. There’s one arm laying against the boat rail with a gauntlet still attached. Not far away I see another arm that seems as if it probably belonged to the same person before the harpoon impaled them and pinned them to the mast of the sunken vessel. Noticing the gauntlets look to be a matching set, I carefully extracted the remains of the person previously wearing them, and quickly stuff them into my bag. Digging a bit further I found a small bag that appeared to have some coins in it and stuffed it into my pouch as well.

I feel that water breathing spell should be coming to an end soon, so with a nod at Lutien to make sure he’s ready, we both make our way back to the surface and sit out on the bank for a moment letting the water run off of our bodies.

Looking across the way, it appears that Jimjar has been doing some fishing and Buppido is fileting the fish. Looking more closely I see Galathalas make his way over to the area to inspect their work. It’s only then that I notice what must have caught Galathalas’ attention in the first place…the fish, it appeared they were being put in a circle with their heads mounted on spikes. Possibly a ritual of sorts? But why? Something is up with Buppido…we need to figure this out sooner than later it seems. I mention to Lutien what I see across the way. He shows me that he also found something interesting in the depths, and that since having found them he no longer feels the pull to dive…at least not that he knows of. He seems to have found a writing quill, and odd looking dead fish and an egg shaped stone about fist sized.

Before long the Hag shows back up and wants to take Buppido away. He doesn’t seem to be interested in doing so but seems reluctant to say no with us all watching. Just to keep an eye on both of them, Ian and I offer to use this time as an excuse to go back over with them to help repair the hut. As we cross the lake Buppido looks less and less comfortable with every row of the boat…I’m keeping an eye on him as I finish writing this and prepare to land.

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Valrak'shi Journal Entry 11

I write this entry from a corner of our shared room, in an Inn in the city of Gracklstaugh. The rough-hewn walls are solid and cool behind my back and the smell of hot metal permeates the room as it does the entire city. The basics of Gracklstaugh are known to me, as they are to most intelligent creatures of the Underdark, but this is my first time passing its gates. It seems as stout as the dwarves that built it…a city not easily besieged I’d guess. I am mentally taking note of every detail, simply to know my way around as well as to share with my brothers when next we cross paths.

Getting to this city was easier than most travel we’ve experienced since returning back to the depths below. I will pick up where I left off with my last entry, the Hag had taken Buppido and Ian and I went along to help fix the hut…but also to keep an eye on what transpired. Oddly enough, it was quite a mundane encounter. The Hag and Buppido talked extensively about who knows what, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary, at least nothing I could catch while rebuilding the wall.

The repairs took a few days, but in the end it looked as good as new. During this time I did catch glimpses of her through the portholes, crafting something from clay. Knowing her familiar I assume it’s another homonculus. Throughout the process her familiar kept with us, helping to relay information between if needed. She mentioned that she was going to help us get to Gracklstaugh, and surprisingly she did just that. Before leaving Ian and I approached her to try and garner more information about her “prophecy”, but she was not very helpful…I feel we may be putting too much stock in the old Hag’s words. Who are we to believe blindly one such as that? Yet we trusted her minions to guide us to Gracklstaugh…

As for that, the Hag asked the Merro to aid us, they assisted in tying our boats together and four of them proceeded to pull us through the waters with great speed. As we traveled, several times we heard the splash of something falling behind us, from the ceiling to the darkened waters it would seem. I can’t help but wonder how many enemies we would have faced along the way were we traveling at our normal pace.

Arriving in the Duergar city, it’s as solid as the descriptions had led me to believe; stone walls and fortresses all around, different colored flames emitting heat and that constant smell in the air. Stalactites and stalagmites jutting ceiling to floor and floor to ceiling. Not an uncommon sight in the Underdark but the sheer girth of some of the columns were awe-inspiring. We arrived on the northern edge of the city at a quiet port, meeting no obstacles along the way. We made our way quickly and confidently to the Inn at which I now sit, Golbrom’s Lair. It’s commonly known as the place outsiders are allowed. Buppido filled us in on the hierarchy and rules of the city, and the fact that anyone who seemed weak was likely to become a slave. Let our enemies think so at their own peril.
Inside the inn we made our way to a far table, settled in and watched the many other patrons. There was quite the mix of creatures so our unusual group didn’t seem as unusual as we would in another establishment. Buppido let us know that he was going to head out into the city to places we may not be welcome, and that he would return soon. He was to gather information about how best for us to travel back to the surface.

I can’t say I’m totally comfortable with him leaving, but I fear we have little choice. I still don’t know what Buppido actually is, but it’s pretty obvious he’s not what he seems.
Initially I had thought him a demon of sorts, or in some way our enemy, but if so…why help us so much? He could have sold us out or harmed us on many occasions…I don’t know his endgame, and I don’t trust him completely, but I’m curious. Now that we’re to the town, I think we may need to have a little talk and see if he will open up as to his true nature.

While the rest of us sat at the bar, Galathalas spoke with the barkeep and procured a room for our group. We casually made our way up to the top of the stairs, and once inside our room spoke openly about Buppido. It seems he was doing some type of ritual back at the Hag’s lair, and we have all noticed his eyes…we’re not sure what to make of it, but we’re all alert to his “difference” so if anything happens, at least we won’t be caught flat-footed.

I put my quill away now, the others are rising from their rests, I believe we are to head out into the Blade Bazaar soon thereafter.

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