D&D 5E: The Road Not Taken

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 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 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 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 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 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 1

Waking after a restful night, Valrak’shi takes note of his surroundings. Situated on a rock shelf off of the cavern floor, away from the slippery clay surroundings, he feels this position as secure as any they’ll find in the Underdark.

Looking around he notices his companions, varied as they are. He wonders how the surface dwellers will fare as they delve into the deeper dark. He and his kind are conditioned to the constant feeling of weight above their head, but most surface dwellers eventually start to feel the weight of the rock above them…instead of feeling the comfort of the protective rocks, it feels a hindrance. It’s no difference than most of his kin that feel exposed in the (seemingly) never-ending expanse of night above, once the caverns are left behind. Valrak’shi ponders the drive within oneself, how different beings seem to be driven by different forces. Is it predetermined? Is there a bit of leeway, or do we have total control? When asked by Grandmaster Glorfinn which path he would take, Valrak’shi knew at once it was to the world above. Not to be rid of the depths of which he was accustomed, because it will always feel like home, but because it wasn’t home. The path of the Monk was not something he chose, it was chosen for him at birth, but it is one from which he has enjoyed and excelled. There are many unknowns in the Underdark, many things that he and his brothers have yet experienced, but the surface world seemed the most alien and because of it, the most interesting. Many roads are open before each one of us; we must follow what is true to ourselves.

Stretching out on the floor to wake his muscles up, he rolls into a plank position and works through a series of quiet and quick routines before sitting back into a meditative pose. Focusing his breathing he digs into his inner Ki and prepares for the trials of the day. He quickly recounts the path that brought them here; the descent from the tunnel above, the webbing they barely escaped from, the capture by the Drow party…oh how he remembers that vividly. He still has a burn mark on his chest from that lightning bolt that laid him low. He doesn’t admonish himself though, he knows from the teachings of Glorfinn that with enough practice he can attain a sense of awareness that will in the future allow him to evade such attacks, and he looks to such a day to surprise his enemies. He recounts briefly their quick but effective fight breaking free of their Drow captors in Velkynvelve, how he loved the look on the cruel priestess’ face when she realized most of her spells would not work in such a close quarters. He thinks on their hasty retreat into the Underdark and of their current companions. He is curious to see how this plays out…to see if any have ulterior motives. Being taught the ways of his race, he can’t help but distrust most and always expect someone to make a play that benefits them most in one way or another.

After a short time, Valrak’shi stands and makes his way silently around the camp. He thinks of his new boots and a rare smile touches his lips. His brothers would love to see these boots for sure. Not all battles are meant to be fought in the light of day, or face to face, sometimes one must use every advantage they can.

Approaching Shuushar Valrak’shi nods his greeting as he sits next to the Kuo-toa.

“Shuushar, it is known that there are those among your people that are quite skilled using their body as a weapon. I doubt our current pace would allow for a foray into that world, but once we are near, if you have access to any books on their methods and techniques, I would be grateful a chance to look on them, or borrow them with a promise to return them in the future. If not, I will strive to return one day to learn what I can of your teachings as well as those of your martial brothers.”

After a few moments of discussion with the Kuo-toa, Valrak’shi excuses himself and walks to the edge of the encampment, to look down upon the floor. The smell of clay is strong in the nose, mixed with a sulfuric scent, undoubtedly from the thermal activity far beneath them. This would explain the Fire Lichen seen growing near where they are camped. The sunken structures are interesting, Valrak’shi would love to know what caused such a disaster, and when for that matter. Easily keeping track in his mind the distance they’ve traveled, and knowing the general direction they’re headed, he knows they have many days of travel ahead of them. He rummages through his bag taking count of the various mushrooms and rations he has, knowing that to be ill prepared in the Underdark is to invite certain doom. He and Lutien step lightly off of their perch, making their way around the cavern hunting for edible mushrooms and what they hope to be potable water, knowing their current waterskins won’t last forever. They are fortunate to find nearly 30 lbs of mushrooms that will help keep the party alive for a couple of days should the food run scarce.

They make their way back up to the ledge where he can see his companions. Looking around, he notices Ian in conversation with Eldeth but can’t quite make out what they’re saying. That one he feels may be quite handy in the battles to come. Bringing the light of day to the Underdark, wielding divine energy like he does, could help sway the tide of battle. Not to mention his God-blessed sword…helpful indeed. He quickly looks over to where Galathalas is standing, off to the side by himself. Looking closer he sees Stool perched upon his shoulders, but the conversation Galathalas is having seems not to be directed at the Myconid, but to himself. He seems to be arguing about something but lovingly caressing the newfound wands, getting the feel for them, learning them perhaps. Valrak’shi isn’t sure what to make of him…he seems like a good person, not a cruel person, but he seems almost not in control of himself. He hopes that as he gains wisdom, along with it comes clarity of mind and a focused will to put those substantial powers to good use, without hurting himself or those around him. Just in case, Valrak’shi will stay light on his feet… Lastly his eyes follow Lutien as he makes his way back to his bedrole, he seems to be busily gathering up pieces of what appear to be deconstructed hand crossbow bolts and a portion of the structure around him, preparing to use the pieces to create his own special kind of arrow the Drow assumes. The best archer Valrak’shi has ever witnessed, he seems to be putting on a strong front, but the Drow can tell he is feeling the weight of the region more so than the others. He does well to hide it though; obviously aware of his surroundings he appears to be working hard to overcome those fears while focusing on his work and the task at hand. Valrak’shi nods, understanding. It is the way of things. One must always work from the inside out to progress along the path. Now, as to their progression…

Suddenly he notices the absence of two of their group. Topsy and Turvy aren’t within eyesight…Valrak’shi quickly asks around as to their whereabouts. Jimjar casually mentions he saw them heading out in the middle of the night, he assumed for mushroom hunting but didn’t inquire.

To his companions Valrak’shi gently speaks; “I know not the reason for Topsy and Turvy’s secretive departure, but our path seems to take us the same direction. When one and all are ready, let us be on from this place…we have a long and dark road ahead of us.”

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Into the Abyss
It's Dark, Real Dark
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The Adventure Begins
Making Friends

The party of novices set out towards the Ardeep Forest with Geth in tow. Their travel presents a startling herd of deer, a wild boar attack and a formidable ogre.

The party finds a letter, very similar to their own invitations, inside the ogre’s lair. It reads as follows.

Li’ous of Triboar,
On behalf of the House, you have been invited to audience one week hence forth.
Your unique musical talents have been deemed worthy of offer. Acceptance will guarantee reward of both opportunity and coin. The utmost discretion is required. The payment of 50 house gold coins will be paid in full upon your arrival.
May Gond bless the hand that plays for the chosen.
Signed,
Hemil Greggur
Observer of the Watchful Order

Along the way the party encounters a traveling merchant and artisan named Thoven, a rather unassuming gnome who has been recently robbed while in route to Waterdeep. The party decides to assist the gnome by tracking the culprits to a nearby bandit camp. They find the missing items and unexpectedly befriend a goblin named Gerky. The party spends the night in the camp and upon leaving the next morning are ambushed by more bandits but a band of goblin’s ‘led’ by Gerky assist the party.

The letter, combined with Geth’s own firsthand account of Hemil’s dealings lead the party to believe that things are not as they seem. The party begins to suspect that Hemil’s interest is not in line with his employers best interests. The party determines to return to Waterdeep with this information and speak with Jhoadil directly.

The party reconnects with Geth and Thoven’s hidden campsite.

The party arrives under the cover of night and had the presence of mind to enter from the south gate.

The party investigates The North Inn where they speak with Bodun, Laura and Pizia about a musician that came through town the night of the robbery. They have a close call with city guards but escape.

They gain audience with Jhoadil without Hemil’s knowledge. Jhoadil is overjoyed to see Thoven’s piece of art demonstrated and pays the gnome in full. Thoven happily pays the party their 10% for having saved him and his life’s work form utter ruin. After the transaction is completed the party is able to speak with Jhoadil alone and explain their findings and suspicions.

Jhoadil begins,

I wasn’t always so fortunate as I appear to you now. I was born in a small farming village just east of Murann (Sailors’ City) to the south along the Sword Coast. My father and brothers worked the fields and we made a humble living. I wasn’t encouraged to dream to high as gaining wealth, station or status for people like us was so very rare. I spent a time working with my family but something in me wanted more. I spent years waiting for an opportunity and it came on morning in the way of a spice trader. I won’t waste your time on details but the spice trade proved profitable for me. I moved up the coast, making contacts with Elturgard, Candlekeep, spent a time in Baldr’s Gate and found Daggerford and the Crown of the North to be in great need of my talents and services. I took risks, I made connections and I sacrificed. When you want to become successful or powerful, or both, you must often keep company with a great many people, some of whom you may question but it’s a means to an end. I have a great deal of influence here in Waterdeep, a great deal of influence far beyond these gates in fact. I’m one of only a few that can make that claim without a family name, title or heroic deeds to support it. I take a great deal of pride in that. A great deal. In fact I’ve made recent relationships with business opportunities as far as Ascore along The Frozen Sea.

Hemil. <pause> Hemil has been with my company since well before Daggerford and Waterdeep. He has been key to my success without question. I suspect we both saw the same thing in each other, opportunities. Perhaps he sees more opportunities without me now. It’s not outside the realm of possibilities. He has his own influence here, outside of our shared control. Perhaps I have left that unchecked and that is my misstep.

My wedding is days away. It has kept my attention and focus tied up over the past several months. Perhaps it is time to change my focus again. If only for a brief time.

I’m sure Lord Elkheart would love to see me fumble being my only real competition in Waterdeep. If what you say is true then I have been played for a fool.

So what do we do now? What are your plans? I can offer little protection if Hemil has truly planned to betray me. There would be no way for me to know in any certainty who is truly my ally. Not within these walls anyway. Hemil has been concerned with other matters for the past several days but if he has eyes and ears about it won’t be long before he hears about our meeting today.

I can’t reach out to the Guard and the Watch with something of this nature and The Lords of Waterdeep could prove to be a tactical error in the end. The Black Robes cannot be trusted. My influence with them is often through Hemil which is now in question. Bringing frivolous or unproven claims to the Lord’s Court could mean stiffer ruling for the complainant.

Perhaps the best route for you would be to leave Waterdeep. Leave Hemil to me, it will take careful movements to put him into check. He is no commoner and should not be underestimated. I could supply you with gear and supplies and help you find a safe route out of the city, perhaps well below any preying eyes. We would have to act quickly however.

Jhoadil take the party to a lower dungeon and opens a large stone door with some keys and command word (Alothar). He instuckts the party to follow the tunnel for two hours and come out under a ruined farmstead home, make their way towards Ampail and find Lothamen, a blacksmith that will give them shelter if the party mentions his name. He will pull a large rope that disappears into the wall, stating that this will release a trap so the party isn’t caught in it. He will inform the party not to return through this tunnel as the traps would most likely be deadly. He, in fact, sent a signal to the Drow that more slaves are on their way.

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The Offer
New in Town

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The date is 1485 DR, the year of the Iron Dwarf’s Vengeance, inside the walls of Waterdeep, the City of Splendor. A young boy dressed in ceremonial robes holding rolled parchments. He scurries through the city, delivering messages to four unsuspecting and unacquainted individuals. The invitations invite each of our, would be adventures, to meet with Jhoadil Zulthind of the House of Inspired Hands. The letters are signed by Hemil Greggur, Observer of the Watchful Order.

Our party meets for the first time at the Holy Reverence Central Court Service Tower in the Castle Ward of Waterdeep.

You stand in front of the tower, the streets are not as busy as other parts of the city, but people pass from time to time. After what seems to be a lengthy wait, you hear iron latches move from behind a set of heavy oak doors. The doors open and two young boys in muted ceremonial robes emerge. They approach the party and offer their hands and lead each of you into the entrance chamber.

As you enter the meeting hall, you are immediately overcome by the smell of a variety of spices, fragrances and freshly cooked meats. A large ashen table sits in the center of the room. A selection of meats, cheese and wine sit atop the table surrounded by plush chairs. The young boy motions for you to sit and eat.

After a few moments several men enter the room. A thin and pale servant steps aside and announces their entrance. “The High Seeker Jhoadil Zulthind“. Through the doors your eyes are met by a slim black and gray bearded man. He is dressed in luxurious but tasteful lavender robes adorn with silver accents and jewelry. Behind him is a heavier well-dressed man of obvious station holding several books and papers who is humming a familiar local traveling tune to himself. Servants position themselves by the walls behind the two men.

“Please be seated, my apologies for the formalities and odd location but I assure you it is not without purpose. I am Jhoadil Zulthind, High Seeker of the House of Inspired Hands. I represent a large majority of the merchant’s guild in Waterdeep and have called upon you today to ask for your help.”

“I have been assured by my closest and most trusted council, Hemil Greggur, that you all hold the appropriate skills and reputation to suit our needs. Before I explain I must be sure that you understand that this is of a sensitive nature and discretion will be critical to the success of this venture. I hope I can I trust that you will hold these conversations among yourselves?”

“Good, very good. Well then, I will leave you in the trusted hands of Hemil to explain further. Please enjoy your food and may that gods look upon you in favor.”
Jhoadil rises, smiles, bows and walks out with two of the servants following. Hemil excuses the other servants and he remains.

“Some nights ago, someone was seen entering Waterdeep from the northern gates. He was seen making his way to the High Seeker’s primary place of business. He was then seen leaving the same area several hours later that evening and made his way out the same northern gates. The next morning two of our servants found windows broken and rooms overturned. After we took inventory of the damage we found some very important ledgers and journals missing. We also found some items that must have been left by the would-be thief.

The ledgers and journals hold a wealth of information critical to the trade district of Waterdeep. Contact information, supply routes, calendars and other details are all housed within the pages. In the wrong hands, this information could be leveraged to work against our best interests. It could also mean placing innocents in danger. An unscrupulous person could use the information to setup lucrative ambushes and robberies, targeting the most valuable supply routes at their most vulnerable locations. Such activity could undermine our reputation and all of Waterdeep would suffer from such undoing.”

“What we need is for someone to locate the thief, return the ledgers and find out who is behind this. You must understand how far reaching the effects of this could be. If certain parties would become aware, it could cause huge disruptions in our ability to provide for the city. We would be greatly indebted to you if this could be set right quickly and quietly. “

Hemil provides information of rumors and sightings, answers questions then directs the party toward the Ardeep Forest region. He alludes to a valley that would be easy for a thief or raider to hold up in. He sends Geth, an assistant, with the party as a guide.

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