The odd statue within the cage was clearly a crude representation of the Markessa, except that it had snakes and worms coming from it’s mouth and eyes. It was clear this was not a effigy of worship, but up loathing and disgust, or perhaps worship of a cruel and malignant nature.
A cave opening in the back wall of the cell beckoned the party, but Maur and Gideon moved forward together, leaving Ian and Feruch behind to stand guard over Markessa’s clone.
A short way down the rough cut passage, the two arrived at the edge of a vast underground lake, eerily lit by a multitude of bluish-green glowing fungi. Shambling towards them from the shadows, a humanoid figure with no legs, bounding towards them on a pair of muscular arms, each with two opposable thumbs. It is roughly human, in appearance, but severely deformed.
The creature introduced himself as Mouth (since he is one of the few Cavelings that still speaks the language of the surface world), and welcomed them to the lair of the Cavelings. He asked, “Are you the thrice cursed messengers?”, but before they could answer, added, “Woe be to the world,now!” Gideon and Maur were unsure how to respond. They spoke with him for a moment, explaining they were looking for a girl and described Yara. Mouth told them they would need to speak with the “Leaders” and offered to send them to them. He then let out a loud hooting sound that echoed through the caverns.
A flat bottomed boat, pulled by a four armed caveling, soon appeared. Mouth told them that Four Arms would take them to the Leaders Cave. Gideon and Maur boarded the boat and were carried deeper into the caverns.
They were rowed down numerous labyrinthine tunnels, catching glimpses of several caverns and side tunnels. They saw one cavern where giant cave beetles were herded and caged like livestock, in another they saw a pair of cavelings with long prehensile arms and legs climbing along the walls eating varied fungi. In yet another, which they passed through, a caveling with three legs in a tripod pattern, and long spike like growths on it’s arms was corralling a pair of cave beetles. Distantly, down one particularly dark flooded passage, they heard muffled scream sand cries.
Eventually, they emerged in a long chamber with a sand bar on the far side of the space. The glowing lichen was particularly heavy in this area, illuminating the chamber ominously. On the sandbar were five crude stone thrones. Seated at four of these thrones were more of the horrible deformed cavelings. One, had a large, bulbous head with a narrow sphincter-like mouth surrounded by several small tentacles. Another had one withered arm, but a pair of tentacles protruding from the opposite shoulder. A third appeared normal, but had a frog-like tongue and was missing a hand. In it’s place was a long boney, spear—like protrusion. The fourth looked like a man with a melted face, completely blind, but clearly able to hear quite acutely. All four of them were being addressed by a fifth figure who appeared to be another clone of the Markessa,
This Markessa was dressed in wold pelts. Instead of milky white skin, she had a black and white pattern on her skin, resembling a skull on her face. Her right hand was black as night. Gideon and Maur disembarked as their boat ran aground on the sand bar.
The Caveling with the tentacles about it’s mouth telepathically probed their minds, searching their thoughts. It’s name was “Whisper” and asked them if they were the “Messengers of Light.” The party learned that the Cavelings were all the failed creations of the Markessa (whom they referred to as “Outer Markessa”) and that the Markessa clone that now stood before them was one of the Leaders, Inner Markessa. It had been foretold that one day a group of people from the outer world, or “Bright Place”, would come to them, deliver the Outer Markessa to them for justice and lead them out of the caverns to rejoin the world in the “Bright Place”.
During this exchange, Gideon and Maur caught sight of Yara, who was now in a cage behind one of the thrones. Inner Markessa took her seat in front of this cage, explaining that this girl from the “Bright Place” had been brought here by Mouth and the Leaders were now discussing whether or not to accept her into their society.
Gideon and Maur explained that they had encountered Outer Markessa, but that she had fled from them. If Yara was given to them, they agreed to fidn Outer MArkessa and bring her back to the Leaders, alive, for them to pass judgment upon her. After some tense negotiations, with the Cavelings demanding that one of them stay behind until Outer Markessa was in their hands, Maur finally got Whisper to agree to allow him to leave his sword with them. Inner Markessa objected, however, saying that the last time Maur had left his sword with someone, he had returned only to kill them all (referring to the Temple of the Rat God, and revealing that she was clearly able to probe their minds, as well. Perhaps all five of the Leaders could).
Inner Markessa, urged by Whisper, finally handed over Yara, but not before casting a powerful enchantment upon both her and Gideon. She explained that a pact between them now was made. Should the party ever have the opportunity to capture Outer Markessa, and fail to bring her to the Leaders, Yara’s life would be forfeit. “Thus the fate of one, is now bound by the word of another.”
Unhappy with the enchantment, but happy to have finally recovered Yara, She joined Gideon and Maur on the boat, which Four Arms quickly rowed back to the cave entrance.
As they disembarked and prepared to leave the Cavelings Lair, Mouth again appeared, only to be rudely punched by Gideon (growing ever more angry over Inner Markessa’s lack of trust in them as he had time to think about it), exclaiming, “Damn this City!” Maur was taken by surprise, having no time to intervene. Mouth cried and screeched loudly as he retreated back into the shadows.
As the party prepared to leave the dungeons beneath the Bottleworks, they took a few moments to search a few rooms and gather some items. Ian grabbed the alchemy books from Fyndax’s chambers, they searched the mysterious stone chair in Guliyet’s (the goblin witchdoctor’s) quarters, finding a number of gems and a fine electrum necklace. With this in hand, they left the way they came, taking Markess’a Clone with them. She explained that she had never before left the dungeon and was fearful of what to expect in the outside world.
The party arrived on the surface at twilight, just before the sun rose over the Bay of Ptolus to the east. Gideon draped his heavy cloak about the shoulders of Markessa’s clone, as the party made their way back to the city gates.
Reflecting on all that had happened over the past few hours, they had recovered Yara and were eager to reunite her with her father, but Markessa had managed to escape, as well as Blackthrone, the captain of her guard. All of the other slaves had been killed, and the party had found no leads as to where the actual Ennin Headquarters or another safe house may be located. Their feelings were mixed over the bittersweet victory. Surely Markessa and Blackthorne would soon have the rest of the Ennin and their allies (whoever those may be) looking for them. There was also the matter of the dark elves that the party had attacked. Some of those had escaped as well. Did they get a good look at the party? Would the drow now turn against the Ennin, or would they realize the party had not been affiliated with the slavers and come looking for them instead. It was a lot to consider…
Returning to the City, the party saved a man from being mugged in the early hours by a band of hooligans calling themselves the Fire Vipers, then quickly returned Yara to her father. Toman was greatful and at the party’s urging agreed to take Yara from the city for a few weeks, for her to recover from her ordeal. They then paid a visit to the Row Bathhouse for a much needed bath. Gideon then stopped at Saches’s, a clothier in Longbottom, just as they opened, to buy more appropriate clothing for Markessa’s Clone and then contacted Kaira Swanwing, who agreed to meet them at the The Ghostly Minstrel for breakfast.
Over breakfast at the Minstrel, Markessa’s Clone chose to rename herself Holone (the Low Elven word for ‘reverence’ – being the emotion she felt when she gazed upon the rising sun for the first time, feeling it’s warmth). Kaira agreed to take Holone with her and guide and protect her. The party also asked Kaira about finding a mage who could help them locate the Markessa.
She explained that they would do well to speak with someone affiliated with the The Inverted Pyramid, the mages guild, and that Stavislav Felatt could help them. She also encouraged them to look for a retired delver named Sheva Callister, who was a regular at the Ghostly Minstrel on most evenings, explaining that she has numerous contacts that could be of use to them: mages, priests, other delver’s, and so on.
Following this meeting, Holone and Kaira departed. The party, now relaxed from a long hot bath and their belly’s full, retired to their rent house to get some much needed rest.