The Heroes 4 Hire awoke from their daytime sleep and prepped for the next phase of the assault on the quarry and the slaving operation hidden within. They were met by the Sergeant of the Darkshelf Guard, whom they were now accustomed to simply calling, “Sarge,” and were informed that Lord Neistor had directed him to accompany the party with a team of himself and three troopers. Just before midnight, the eight of them headed up river with a rowboat, searching for the secret jetty leading to an underground channel and beach deep in the lower levels of the quarry, described to them by the captured guards where they would traffic slaves. It took a couple hours, but find it they did.
From the jetty, they launched the boat and rowed upstream while Diplo pushed it like a jalopy thanks to his Ring of Water Walking. The tributary shortly went into a cave and then underground in a large natural tunnel, and after traversing nearly a mile inside the bluff they finally came to a huge natural cavern, complete with its own sandy beach in the dark. Oddly, a rowboat was anchored nearly 20 feet offshore, trimming in the steady current of the natural spring that head watered the tributary. They pushed and rowed the boat to the beach, and as they approached the sand two dark, crocodilian figures flanked the boat just under the surface. A sudden crackling of energy, the smell of ozone, and in an instant two giant electrical discharges flashed from the creatures, shocking all and magnetizing everything metal in strong and wildly varying polarizations.
Before anyone could react, the two mudtigers pressed their attacks by simultaneously emerging from the water and hoisting themselves on opposite edges of the boat on their stubby, webbed and clawed forelegs, to snap their toothy maws into Dajjal and one of the city guardsmen. The party hurriedly beached and disembarked the boat, retreating up the beach to get away from these aquatic monstrosities. The two mudtigers, slithering their legless, serpentine bodies behind their powerful forelegs, followed them out of the water and moved with surprising quickness on land. The group counterattacked with bows, crossbows, spells and melee weapons effectively, although Diplo was having some problems managing his now magnetized warhammer, shield and plate armor. The team was shortly victorious, but not before the mudtigers had managed to get another shock attack off and bite a few people.
And this was pretty indicative of how the rest of the night was going to go.
The Heroes plus Guardsmen began to explore this lowest level of the quarry in earnest. The caverns were natural and mostly unimproved, carved through the passage of time and the work of underground aquifers moving water and grit. They next came to two caverns with troglodytes, choked on their stench but managed to survive the surprise attacks from their seaweed bed hides, and dispatched those creatures with relative ease. Past the troglodytes they found a chamber filled with refuse and offal… the bottom of a vertical shaft from the upper levels used as a garbage chute… with several zombies just standing in there randomly until they entered. The team returned the zombies to their previous un-undead state, and then searched the disgusting mess and found a strange, sharp spire of black metal, a thin pyramid with onyx and copper appliques on each side representing a single staring eye, about a foot tall. Illyia cast Identify and discovered that it was not cursed, but did prevent the zombies from wandering more than 30 feet from it, as well as tweaking the effectiveness of Turn Undead and Control Undead.
Beyond the zombies’ garbage heap, a passage led to a massive charnel house chamber of some ancient tribe long-dead, with burial niches carved into the walls stacked four tiers high. They began to carefully search the empty tomb, and were quickly engaged by four ghouls and a ghast. The party’s superior numbers made these undead easy pickings, and it was over really before it started. They then moved on down another passage away from the charnel house, and discovered another rubbish heap, complete with natural shaft garbage chute, only without the zombies. A quick search uncovered little, but did manage to disturb some of the fungi growing over the mess and release infectious spores into the air. The team retreated from the area quickly, but they did not inhale. They also, “did not have sex with that woman”.
Past this second garbage pile, the tunnel opened up into a massive central chamber with a large pool of water in the middle and tunnels leaving off in several directions. The Heroes 4 Hire approached the water to investigate, when two more troglodytes came running from an alcove to the south, followed by a human in clerical robes. As they began to exchange fire with the troglodytes and cleric, that familiar feeling returned… the sudden static charge in the air, the smell of ozone… and POW! another electrical blast emanated from the edge of the pool. Metal again became magnetized, Diplo hilariously so, and an extremely large mudtiger emerged from its breeding pool to join the fight. Beeblebrox and Diplo engaged the mudtiger while Illyia and Dajjal eliminated the troglodytes, and the Sarge and his men formed up in a rank as archers and proceeded to pepper everything not on their team with arrows. The cleric, assessing he was grotesquely outnumbered and losing, attempted to flee, but was turned into a pincushion by the Sarge’s firing squad. With all enemies dead, Beeblebrox skinned the big mudtiger and the team searched and looted the bodies and the alcove, which turned out to be the cleric’s chamber.
With many unexplored tunnels to choose from, the team headed northwest, came to a roundabout shaped chamber with a central pillar, began to circle it when Illyia stepped into a snare trap and ended up hanging upside down 15 feet in the air by an ankle. Embarrassed more than hurt, he managed to cut the rope from his ankle and land from the precarious position without breaking his neck. Except, he took two step further and hit the next snare trap, and repeated the process all over again. Comedic buffoonery completed, the party found a door with three identical keyholes, all looking like they fit the one key they found on the cleric’s corpse. They took a guess, after Illyia checked for traps finally, and stuck the key in the top lock and turned. A chime sounded from somewhere overhead, hidden out of sight in a niche in the darkness near the 20-ish foot ceiling. Estimating that most of the monsters nearby were already dead, the team tried the next keyhole and turned, and door opened with a click.
Inside they found a small round chamber, again with a pool of water in the middle, a door with similar keyhole arrangement in the eastern wall, and a tunnel exiting in the southwest corner. Diplo ran across the surface of the water trying to provoke another mudtiger attack, but instead found the pool occupied by a Water Weird, who found his sense of humor distasteful and worthy of bashing. The large elemental was out numbered and alone, not that an elemental cares about such things, but the party quickly found out that hitting water is not as easy as it sounds, at least, not for any kind of appreciable damage. The problem was eventually blasted out of existence with lightning and magic, so all in all the group was no worse for wear. They investigated the tunnel in the southwest corner, found that it curved around 180 degrees and then went up a long ramp to the middle level of the quarry. H4H, the Sarge and his men decided to finish exploring this bottom level before heading up to the next, so instead they investigated the door in the east wall and discovered it worked the same as the door they came through.
The party followed this tunnel back to the mudtiger breeding pool, and then retraced their steps to the charnel house to bunker in for a long rest. A watch was posted, people slept, an elf tranced, new spells were prepared, sustenance was consumed and wounds were patched up. Once complete, they departed the charnel house through a previously unexplored passage, which led them to a mudtiger nursery, complete with two pools, one for the mudtiger mama and one for a thousand little ‘fingerlings’, and their troglodyte nanny chopping fish from a basket into little bits to feed them. An assassinating shot from Illyia’s bow dropped the troglodyte like a hot rock, and Diplo went in again to investigate the pools, getting himself shocked and remagnetized, this time by both the mama and the entire pool of fingerlings simultaneously. Seriously, I don’t think Diplo’s wristwatch is ever going to work right again.
From there they continued on to the last chamber on that level, a narrow hall with a heavy, steamy mist hanging from natural hot springs that run across the floor, perpetually keeping the room obscured with dense fog. The team worked their way through the fog, to discover that a group of giant frogs, killer giant frogs, that is, used that place as their personal sauna. And they were not fond of the idea of sharing. So the frogs tried to eat the party, especially Beeblebrox who must have looked extremely tasty, but the party filleted and sauteed them in short order. A quick walk around the entire bottom level ensured that they had in fact cleared everything out. Although they had only been awake and back in action for about an hour, the team decided to wait until after midnight to assault the middle level of the quarry to ensure the innocent workers from Darkshelf would be out of the potential combat zone, and so hunkered down for another long rest.
Will Illyia stop hanging around like a pinata? Will Diplo ever demagnetize? Will the Beeblebrox ever stop reeking of fish guts and ozone?
Tune in TOMORROW to find out, on “TGC: Heroes 4 Hire!!”