The party considered their options on gaining entry to the catacombs beneath the Bottleworks. They had a password they could use to try to bluff their way past the proprietor of the factory. Of course, there was always the possibility that Sturm had not been honest with them about the password. They could sneak in at night and try to find their way into the catacombs, but according to Vagger, there was a molten glass golem that guarded the place then. This didn’t sound like an easy prospect, either. And then there was a rumor regarding a smuggler’s cave a short distance outside the city walls that could possibly lead them to where they wanted to go. While this was not a guaranteed entryway to the catacombs, it did seem to be the safest option to sneaking in without rousing suspicion.
As the party made their way out of the city, Gideon used his thoughtstone to contact Kaira Swanwing. He shared with her the news of Bel’s disappearance, as well as his growing suspicion that Bel may have been a mindflayer in disguise, or perhaps connected to the creature, and thus able to read their thoughts. If this were true, it would mean that the Ennin now had intimate knowledge of who was behind the recent raids on their organization, which could put Kaira in danger. Upon learning this, Kaira informed Gideon that she would make preparations to leave her house and go into hiding for the time being, but mentioned she could still be contacted through her thoughtstone.
The party exited the Guilder’s Gate and commenced searching the lightly wooded bluffs about a quarter mile southeast of the city. After a few hours, Maur and Ian’s keen eyes noted a low rock formation surrounded by a heavily overgrown thicket. As they drew near, they also noticed a rutted path leading towards the formation.
Standing before this formation, the party noticed that the low stones parted to reveal a cave opening dropping down at a slight angle. It was just wide enough to admit a narrow wagon or a group of men marching two abrest. A hint of flickering light was just barely visible down the cave opening.
Sneaking in, the party learned the opening soon widened into a large, low-ceilinged chamber. A group of hobgoblin sentries sat around a small campfire. Past them, a torch-lit tunnel descended deeper into the earth.
Ian wandered into the cave, intent on drawing the attention of the hobgoblin guards, who were more focused on their eat and drink than actually keeping watch. Noticing him, several of them rushed forward to confront him, while the remainder took defensive positions. Ian turned to flee, the plan being to lead the hobgoblins into the narrow cave opening where the rest of the party would be waiting in ambush.
One of the hobgoblins bolted forward to intercept Ian before he could leave the chamber. Gideon and Feruch charged into the chamber, cutting him off, while Maur opened fire with his shortbow. The battle was brief, and soon all seven hobgoblins lay dead. One had made an attempt to flee down the tunnel that led deeper into the cave complex, but a pair of well thrown daggers from Gideon ended that effort.
The party hastily piled the bodies in the back of the chamber, stamped out the campfire and looted the hobgoblins. They then proceeded down the torch-lit tunnel, Maur leading the way.
The tunnel was incredibly long – over 300 yards, slowly and steadily descending. The passage headed in a generally northerly direction, but was uneven along it’s entire length, making the judging of distance difficult for all but the dwarf. Maur realized that they had certainly passed under the city walls at this point, and were beneath the streets of the city again. They could only hope that they were nearing the area beneath the Bottleworks, but as Gideon consulted his maps, it was looking promising.
The passage finally widened to form another large chamber, this one unlit by any form of light. Another torch-lit passage, on the opposite side of the chamber, continued on. Maur could see movement in the gloom of the chamber ahead. He called for the others to halt and take defensive positions.
A number of dark elf warriors were escorting a small group of human slaves towards another cavern in the room ahead. The party had never encountered such creatures before, but Maur took a moment to share with them what he knew of the dark elves, or drow. Fallen elves, who dwelt beneath the earth, powerful priests and wizards, deadly warriors, cunning and evil. His words filled the party with dread.
They wondered why the drow were here, when Gideon remembered that one of the leaders of the Ennin, Edralve, was said to be a dark elf. Could there be others within the organization? Ptolus had long passed laws that any drow found would be sentenced to death…as well as those that aided them. Clearly the Ennin were not concerned with such laws.
As Gideon prepared to wait until the drow passed, Maur suddenly rushed forward, charging the dark elves. As he entered the chamber he could see there were far more than he had first realized. Maur staggered to a halt. Close to a dozen dark elf guards, led by a robed one, were leading a group of four human slaves into a tunnel that led even deeper into the earth. The rest of the party had no choice but to forsake their plan of sneaking about and rushed forward to help their dwarven companion.
The drow instantly spotted Maur, drawing their weapons and moving to block his advance. Maur, realizing the party was outnumbered, immediately changed his plans. “Er..we were sent by Markessa to aid you.”
The robed dark elf moved forward, “We have what we came for, bought and paid for.” He motioned towards the slaves. "We have no further need of your assistance, " he said.
“Regardless, Markessa sent us here. He ordered us to reinforce you.” Maur said quickly.
She…" Gideon whispered firmly, catching up to Maur, “Markessa is a she!”
The dark elves attacked.
The robed drow fell, almost instantly to the the dwarfs arrows. As he faded into oblivion, he muttered the words, “We are betrayed!” His guards rushed forward, as others emerged from the tunnel, shoving the slaves aside, intent upon defending their lord. Feruch and Gideon charged forward, as Ian threw many volleys of darts into the fray. Several more drow fell quickly, until the entire chamber suddenly turned black – cloaked in a magical darkness.
Gideon, in the forefront of the coming assault stepped back, bracing himself. He heard scrambled movement ahead of him, but unexpectedly, it was withdrawing. After a few minutes, the magical darkness faded.
Five drow, including the robed one, lay dead in the cavern. The slaves and the rest of the guards were gone. Maur desired to give chase down the tunnel the drow obviously fled down, but finally relented to Gideon’s insistence that they continue their search for Yara. Searching the bodies they found a few coins, and the peculiarly crafted weapons and armor of the drow. Maur explained such items are magical, but lose their power when taken to the surface, eventually crumbling to dust in the sunlight.
Searching the robed drow, it soon became evident that he was not a wizard, as first thought, for he carried no components or spellbooks, but was obviously nothing more than a merchant.
Each of the drow bore a necklace and pendant made of a dark, silvery metal. The pendant is of a narrow skull, with a sword embedded in the top of the head. The pommel of the sword is shaped like a bat, with the crossguard forming the bats wings. Maur explained that drow are divided up into numerous warring factions, or Houses. Each dark elf bears the sigil of the House they are affiliated with. These emblems are clearly a House Sigil of some sort, but he is not familiar with dark elves enough to know which one, in particular.
The party made an effort to hid the bodies in the chamber, then continued down the torch-lit tunnel on the opposite side of the room.
This passage quickly changed from rough, uneven stone to tooled brickwork. Rounding a corner, Gideon spotted a pair of gnoll guards standing in the hallway ahead. They were guarding a side passage, and were heavily armored in plate mail and carrying halberds.
Again Maur rushed to the attack. Coming beside Gideon, he leveled his bow at the gnolls, firing a volley of arrows. One found it’s target, striking one of the massive dog-like creatures in it’s side. This gnoll wheeled about, seeking shelter in the side passage, as the second one leaped down the hall towards the attackers, bringing it’s halberd to bear.
Gideon intercepted the gnoll, as a loud alarm suddenly sounded through the tunnels. The wounded gnoll banged mightily upon a bronze gong in the side tunnel! The gnoll on Gideon quickly fell to Maur’s second volley, allowing him to rush forward to confront the other gnoll and end the sounding of the alarm.
Rounding the corner and entering the side passage, Gideon quickly killed the second gnoll, silencing the gong. But the damage was already done. The base was alerted.
A side doorway burst open with a pair of goblins emerging to confront the party. At the far end of the hallway, a veritable horde of goblins quickly formed to charge down on the party. Gideon glanced down the end of the side passage, noting a door there. He quickly called Ian to come open it, as he and Maur took positions to block the charging goblins in the main hallway. Feruch rushed up, passing a door and a closed portcullis the party had passed in their haste to kill the gnolls. From this portcullis, the growls of several dogs or wolves was heard.
The alarm was raised. The party could only wait for what was to come as the goblins pressed towards them.