0130, Far, 13 Jo, 3E999
With the defeated Slave Lords looted and a short rest completed, Illyia Baham borrowed the Immovable 10’ Pole from Lt. Diplo Norixius and proceeded up the spiral staircase, where he found the door at the top that presumably led to the Slave Lord’s stronghold above. He slid the pole through handle and against the frame, activated it and effectively barred the door permanently. With their ‘rear’ effectively guarded, the party proceeded out the entrance hallway to the Slave Lords’ Throne Room, immediately catching themselves in the gas trap that had been prepared for their anticipated approach. Stone slabs slid down in front and behind the group, trapping them in an airtight section of hallway, shortly followed by a glass vial falling from a small chute and shattering at their feet. The enclosed space quickly filled with a sickly sweet smelling green gas, and the Heroes 4 Hire started dropping unconscious like proverbial flies.
Naïlo Thia managed to catch and hold her breath before she got a lung full of the gas, ran over to the collapsing Illyia and pulled the Ring of Dimension Door from his finger. Having previously traveled with Illyia by way of the ring, she slipped it on, closed her eyes and concentrated on the hallway they were heading down, at least 20’ past the where the front stone slab slid down. In her head, the world seemed to pinch down, like a hyper-compressed sneeze, and then in an instant she was crouched on the floor of the hallway, exactly 20’ beyond the slab where she imagined. She looked around the hallway for a few moments near the slab, looking for any controls for the trap, and not finding any decided they were most likely on the other side in the Throne Room. She snuck her way down the tunnel to circle the long way around to the secret passage that led them to the Slave Lords, and it opened into a massive cavern that extended well out of the range of her Darkvision, filled with a vast lake and a small, sandy shoreline hugging the east wall heading south. Near the end of the passageway, she saw two large holes in the ground surrounded by slither-tracks in the sand, and out of one of them came a giant constrictor snake, apparently unaware she was there, heading for the water’s edge. She drew an Arrow of Slumber, fired and put the giant snake to sleep. The noise attracted the second out of the other hole, and she repeated the process to put it to sleep as well.
Thia continued south along the shoreline, and entered an area where large quantities of seaweed-like aquatic vegetation had washed up on the sand. A large mound of the plants started slowly moving toward her, and she stopped and fired an arrow into it. The mound then stood up into a vaguely humanoid shape, and continued its slow progression toward her. Thia kept firing as she retreated until the Shambling Mound advanced to her, and then used her Twin Swords +1 to slice and dice the shambling mound to pieces. She climbed over its heap to the depression where it started and found its few treasures, namely a Potion of Greater Healing, which she took immediately to heal the damage taken from the shambling mound’s slam attacks, Gloves of Thievery and a Shortsword +2.
At the southern end of the shoreline, nestled among various stalagmites, Thia found another well-engineered hallway and proceeded stealthily down it. The moisture from the great lake cavern continued down the hall, but eventually turned into a clear, viscous slime that she hadn’t seen before. It had a slightly acidic scent to her sensitive nose, developed through years of running with her wolf pack in the forests. The passage turn to the west and opened into a 20′×30′ room, the passage continuing on out the other end. Mysteriously, the trail of slime stopped abruptly 10’ into the chamber from her, and she noticed the dry floor beyond was discolored slightly compared to the rest of the stone around it. She used the point of her sword to tap along the area of discoloration, and discovered the 10′×20′ rectangle of floor in front of the opposite hall entrance was a tilt-floor trap, with the pivot point along the centerline so it could swing either way. When she pushed it open with her sword, it bounced several time off something squishy below, and after the third or fourth time the two Gelatinous Cubes decided they had had enough and began oozing out to attack. Thia immediately retreated back into the hallway whence she came, firing rapidly with her bow and giving ground to avoid the cubes closing with her. First one and then the other fell to her arrows before they could close the distance. In the pit below the floor where they were hiding, she found a Longsword +2, a suit of Chain Mail +1 and an Ioun Stone of Protection.
She managed to stash the loot in the large chamber of her Quiver of Ehlonna, and continued on shortly coming out one of the doors in the minotaur’s lair, and as she crossed passed the minotaur’s dead corpse, she heard voices coming from down the hallway toward where the electrified door to the secret passage was. She snuck up to the corner and peered down, observing a large group of Suderham troops and a few individuals she assumed were some of the remaining Slave Lords, organizing security and discussing why they couldn’t get through the door to the stairs, the alarm alerting that the gas trap had been sprung, and what could be going on. While she was surreptitiously observing, a guard spotted her watching them, yelled an alarm, and several began to pursue. She retreated at full dash back the way she came, all the way to the great lake cavern and hid among the stalagmites at the southern shore.
Thia waited what seemed like forever, and no one came. She eventually stuck her nose out, snuck back down the hall past the gelatinous cubes and into the minotaur lair. She heard little, but returned to the corner where she had earlier been spotted, to find that two guards were posted just outside the electrified door, warily engaged in quiet small talk as they stood sentry. She watched unnoticed for long minutes, until a larger group of troops led by a terrifying half-orc warrior came back out of the electrified door. The half-orc organized a search and ordered the group to split up and search the labrynth and the passages all the way back to the Throne Room, to find the female elf they saw earlier and capture her. Thia started at hearing this, ran back to the great lake chamber heading toward the hallway with the gas trap. As she ran up the shoreline, another large group of Suderham guard led by an all-too-capable-looking female Drow appeared out of the very passageway she was heading toward, held torches in front of the holes where the giant constrictor snakes lived, and began searching along the shoreline heading south… toward her.
Both escape routes cut off, Thia returned to her hiding place among the stalagmites in a near panic. The half-orc and his search party came out of the southern passageway, and met with the Drow and her search party from the northern passageway. They talked a moment, about the female elf that had to be hiding nearby, and began searching around the stalagmites. Being closed in upon, Thia made a desperate dive into the lake, with the half-orc on her heels and diving in after her. He grappled her in the water and a struggle ensued, where he managed to smack her brutally in the temple with a blackjack. She stayed conscious and concentrated on the Slave Lords’ Throne Room, just in front of the passage where the gas trap was, and activated Illyia’s ring once more to Dimension Door right out of his grasp. The world seemed to squeeze in on her again, and a moment later she was standing in the exact spot she had seen in her mind, in the Throne Room 10’ in front of the passage to the gas trap. She also found herself standing in among a group of nearly 30 surprised Suderham guards, and male human wizard and an attractive female human rogue. Both Thia and the guards and Slave Lords looked at each other dumbfounded for a moment, and then the wizard yelled, “That’s her! Get Her!!” Thia attempted to run, but she quickly found herself grappled to the floor by overwhelming force and beaten unconscious.
Mol, 16 Jo, 3E999
The next days were a blur of drug-induced sedation and brutality. The Heroes 4 Hire found themselves in prison cages in an unknown dungeon, naked except for a nasty, filthy loincloth barely capable of covering their genitalia. They were barely fed. They were beaten, drugged and interrogated. They were deliberately deprived of sleep and watched jealously to prevent praying or preparation of any magics. At the end of the third day of their incarceration, a tremor shook the dungeon, shortly after which the guards returned in force with the priest from the Temple of the Earth Dragon.
“You have violated the sanctity of the Aerie and Suderham, and murdered several of the Nine. The Earth Dragon has spoken! He is hungry, and the time has come to feed you to him, as is our sacred custom. O Miscreants, now you shall pay for the havoc you have wrought and your crimes against our Lords! Guards, subdue them with the ‘Smoke of the Little Death’.” The priest and the guards then sealed the chamber behind them, a small opening in the door through which emerged a hose, spewing the green gas. In moments, the Heroes were again unconscious.
0900, Zol, 17 Jo, 3E999
The Heroes 4 Hire awoke in total darkness. Those with Darkvision saw that all of them were present, still naked but for their loincloths, in a roughly 20’ natural cavern with four exits, whose ceiling was higher than could be discerned with sight. They took a few moments to check themselves for injuries, and other than some bumps and bruises from being tossed in wherever-they-were, they found none. Dajjal used Prestidigitation to provide some light for those who needed it, and Ryoun Rodri used his Weapon Bond skill to call his Rapier +1 and the Sword of Lyons to himself. Sitting on the floor of the cavern with them was a cloth scroll tube, which they opened and found a strange variety and selection of spell scrolls inside, 11 in total. Dajjal and Illyia summoned their familiars to them, and Illyia immediately sat down in the middle of the cavern and sent Nightshade successively down each corridor to reconnoiter the entire complex. Within a few minutes, Illyia had seen every nook and cranny and passage in the natural caves they now found themselves in, including three possible exits: a ‘bat cave’ across a large chasm, a rock chimney inhabited by a Giant Trapdoor Spider across a slightly smaller chasm, and a branch of the tunnels that descend beneath water that showed obvious wave-action, indicating a tube to the outside.
The entire network of passages were natural rock crevices, barely 5’ wide and often stooped short. There were several chambers distributed throughout: a small lair of Kobolds, a huge village of Myconids, a pool with small shellfish and cave fish, clusters of huge mushrooms standing as tall as 9’ and thick as trees, a patch of roots from a tree above, an ancient Will-o’-Wisp, a vein of flint and a vein of coal, a colony of giant ants across another large chasm with a bridge made completely of dead ant-carcasses, some stalactites and stalagmites and some giant fire beetles. As Nightshade returned to the group, an intense but short-lived tremor rocked the cavern, dumping dust and a few pieces of rock down on the party. Sensing that time was of the utmost, Illyia recounted what he had seen via Nightshade and the team decided on grabbing the tree roots as makeshift rope and using the trapdoor spider’s rock chimney as their escape route.
With tremors spurring them on, the party sprinted along the twisting tunnels and retrieved the tree roots, acquiring three 10’ pieces plenty thick and strong enough to hold the group. On their way by, Diplo picked up a femur bone from some large humanoid, perhaps an Ogre, that was lying on the passage floor, any flesh long since decayed away. They then ran back through the central chamber and out the other side, passing through the chamber with the clear pool and all the cave fish and mussels, turned right and continued as another tremor dumped more rock and dirt on them. They came to a tight switchback in the tunnel, widening slightly into a narrow chamber with some stalagmites. As they attempted to dash by, a Roper revealed itself and attacked them. An intense battle ensued, where the half-grown roper entangled half the party with its tendrils and began reeling them in, managing to bite Diplo and Illyia before the rest of the Heroes killed it. The team then took enough time to cut the roper up, harvesting six 20’ long tendrils that would make extremely strong ropes, as well as finding three large gems in its gizzard.
Another tremor rocked the cavern as they sprinted to the chasm obstructing their path to the rock chimney. They quickly lashed something of a rope bridge, perhaps more like a rope ladder, and then used a Jump scroll to allow Diplo to leap to the other side of the 20’ wide chasm with one end. They held the ends fast, as the rest of the team crossed one at a time. Ryoun stayed last to hold the near end, and then held on to the contraption and swung down to the far wall of the chasm, mountain climber-style, to ascend the other side. They pulled up the rope ladder, and Illyia sent Nightshade up the rock chimney to the niche in the wall 60’ up where the giant trapdoor spider nested. Nightshade shapechanged back to her original form just below the niche, popped up and catching the spider by surprise, cast Sleep on it. The spider went slack, and the Heroes then proceeded to heave each other up into the rock chimney to make the 120’ climb straight vertically to the surface. Nightshade returned to her raven form as the last Hero was assisted by his comrades into the chimney by the rope ladder. Single file they climbed until they reached the underside of topsoil and plant roots, where Alton Beeblebrox (leading the way) took a few moments to figure out how the spider’s trapdoor flipped open. Another, biggest- and worst-yet tremor shook the Heroes 4 Hire violently, who clung to the plentiful climbing ledges within the rock chimney for dear life, and they thought they might be crushed within this throat of earth and stone. A furnace of heated air blasted up the chimney from below them along with the smell of phosphorous and sulfur, and the party began to scramble out the trapdoor above in full panic.
1300, Zol, 17 Jo, 3E999
The Heroes 4 Hire emerged from the hole in the earth alive, but into a nightmarish scene of hellfire and destruction. They were partly up the slope of the mountain, maybe a third of the way to the top, but as they looked upslope, the top of the mountain was gone. A giant plume of ash spewed skyward, interrupted intermittently by belches of volcanic bombs ejecting from the summit caldera. The forest on the slopes above them were engulfed in a massive wildfire, heading towards them. Molten lava spewed from the top, flowing slowly down the sides in all directions. Yellow sulfurous gas flowed out of vents cracked in the rock around the base of the mountain, and flowed in a steady stream into the destroyed city of the Nine. Suderham lay in ruins from volcanic bombs landing on its walls and on the buildings within. The party sprinted towards the city’s destroyed southern wall, only to be repelled by the cloud of noxious gas filling the city. They could not enter, but they could see thousands, if not ten-thousand, dead within… some crushed by falling debris, some burned by falling magma bombs or the out-of-control fires that followed, but most choked to death by poisonous volcanic gases.
They circled outside Suderham’s walls to the east, where they encountered a revolt of slaves who had captured a bevy of guards, overseers and slave merchants, and were having quite a party of sharpening stakes from a stack of logs and then bringing their captives forward one by one to be impaled upon them. The Heroes, still in nothing but loincloths, made their way by the crowd without attracting attention, being taken for fellow slaves. As they cleared the corner of the northern wall, they were greeted by a raging fire leaping from hovel to shanty out of control through Scumslum, running from the main gate of Suderham, but quickly spreading through the slums towards the docks. They hurried toward the docks as well, trying to stay ahead of the flames, when they were intercepted by a man dressed in the uniform of a Slave Lord Lieutenant, his weapon still sheathed at his belt but waving his empty hands above his head at them. As he approached, they recognized him as Kwon Phon To’s infiltrator, Selzen Murtano.
When word hit the streets of Suderham of the Heroes 4 Hire’s capture, Selzen managed to steal a lieutenant’s uniform and gear to see if he could find the group. He joined the detail to take them up the mountain and dump them down the ‘well’ into the labyrinth, and managed to drop the case full of scrolls he had stolen from an office in the city, down the hole behind them in an effort to aid the Heroes when they awoke. They asked about the remaining Slave Lords, and he pointed at a private boat with a large green and blue dragon emblazoned on it being prepared for launch at the closest pier to them. “That’s their boat, the Water Dragon. And, that’s them aboard… along with some men-at-arms and some sergeants.”
The Heroes 4 Hire rushed the pier, with Selzen Murtano bringing up the rear. There they found a throng of slaves and townspeople being held at bay on the pier by a banded-armor wearing Ogre wielding a greatsword, flanked by two sergeants from the Guard. Behind them, the male half-orc fighter/assassin that chased Thia, Theg Narlot, stood in reserve and commanded the defense. Beyond him, ten troopers were busy loading crates and equipment onto the boat. On board, the female Drow fighter/cleric, Edralve, as well as the male human illusionist, Lamonsten, and the beautiful female thief known as Slippery Ketta, were preparing the boat for launch. The party, still in loincloths, tried to blend in with the crowd and ease their way closer. Illyia used a Scroll of Invisibility as Beeblebrox dashed across to the side of the pier and leaped onto the bow of the boat. Diplo and Thia mounted his giant eagle Steed and took off toward the stern of the boat.
The Slave Lords, showing wounds and fatigue from the ‘running gunfight’ they had endured the entire way to the docks, finally recognized them out of the crowd and commanded their troops to attack and kill them. Edralve moved toward the front of the boat as several of the troops engaged Beeblebrox in melee, and cast Silence on Dajjal, effectively putting the four Heroes still on the docks in silence. Slippery Ketta immediately dove overboard and disappeared under the water. Ryoun, Karraway, Smedley Hampton and Dajjal advanced on the defenders on the pier through the townspeople and slaves, while Diplo made a low swoop on the eagle over the deck, attacking Lamonsten as Thia jumped off to also attack the wizard. Lamonsten had barely time to react; he fell quickly to the onslaught by the eagle, Diplo and Thia. Thia was engaged by three more troops as she fought to get to the chest at the rear of the boat.
Slippery Ketta suddenly appeared up out of the water on the far side of the boat, rushing up behind Thia and delivering a brutal sneak attack before she could react, and then dashing away and throwing herself back over the side into the water. Illyia, invisibly, moved through the melee to cross the gangway and onto the boat heading to the aft near Thia. Theg Narlot joined the ogre and the two sergeants with a handful of his troopers to engage that half of the Heroes and the townspeople, who after the first fatality fled. On the pier, a mighty brawl ensued, and the party quickly figured out that Dajjal was the center of the silence spell. Diplo circled the eagle around the boat, making repeated diving harassing attacks on the female Drow with his bone-greatclub and eagle’s talons. Edralve attempted to cast Blindness on Diplo, but he managed to resist the spell. Thia crossed to the chest and a trooper moved to pursue, but crossed in front of Illyia who promptly dispatched him with the Sword of Lyons. Thia found the chest locked, and pulled up on one carry handle to hear loose items clunk around inside. Another pair of troops descended on Thia, but she and Illyia quickly dispatched them.
Her last spell slot expended, Edralve next attempted to use her innate Drow abilities to cast Levitate on Diplo, with the intent of raising him off his giant eagle steed to a height and dropping him to injury. Diplo’s enchanted Saddle of the Cavalier, still firmly strapped to the giant eagle, caused her spell to fail as Beeblebrox dispatched the three troops engaging him. Diplo attacked Edralve with his club as did his eagle with its claws, and finally managed to land a hit on the elusive Edralve. Her concentration broken, the Silence ended and Dajjal opened up with his Eldritch Blast to great effect. Smedley took Selzen’s longsword since he wasn’t using it, and Karrawya took Selzen’s crossbow. Diplo, the giant eagle and Beeblebrox triple teamed Edralve, but Slippery Ketta surfaced again on the pier and hit Ryoun with a vicious sneak attack before again diving into the water. On the pier the fight was intense, but eventually the troopers were eliminated, followed by their sergeants. Theg Narlot fell next, followed by the ogre, and shortly Slippery Ketta was alone. Her last attempt at a sneak attack was successfully landed on Karraway, but her escape came up short, leaving her on the dock surrounded by enemies. And her short life was quickly ended.
With the destruction of the last four of the Slave Lords, the destruction of the network and the total destruction of their hidden island, the Heroes 4 Hire along with Selzen Murtano ushered the townspeople and ex-slaves from the pier onto the Water Dragon while Thia and Illyia opened the chest with a crowbar. Inside they found what was left of the riches of the Slave Lords: an assortment of jewels, jewelry and books, of every flavor for quick portability of great wealth. The two then jumped into the cargo hold below and quickly searched the few crates and boxes present, and found plenty of trade goods as well as all of their weapons, armor, equipment and gear. The Heroes stuffed the boat to the brim with escapees, and launched across the lake to the rim side docks nearly 2 miles away. There they found Kwon waiting with their horses among a few wagons abandoned by the guards and the merchants at the rim side docks, who had long since fled at the sight of an erupting volcano. They transloaded the loot and the refugees to the wagons, and begin the long descent down the mountain path from the crater lake and back into the mists of Morytania.
1400, Zol, 17 Jo, 3E999
With the Slave Lords and their network utterly destroyed, what new adventures will the Heroes 4 Hire seek out next?
Tune in next week, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!”