Ian tossed down a rope allowing each party member to join him at the guard tower atop the building. Reunited, the party quickly formulated a plan. Knowing that very soon at least one of the guards would come to check on the one they had just killed, each of them would take a dose from Ian’s potion of invisibility. They would then carefully make their way down the rope ladder to the warehouse floor below. They would then fan out, taking positions at the three sets of iron double doors in the back of the warehouse. Once in position, they would each select a target, hopefully taking down about a third of the thugs as the battle commenced. Following that, they would deal with whatever comes.
Each in agreement, they drank from Ian’s potion, just as the expected thug left his card game to come check on his friend. They had positioned the body of the thug to make it appear that he was sitting and looking out towards the bay. As the second thug climbed up, he called out, " Rolin, what’s taking so long?" He poked his head up, seeing his friend. Maur, invisible, stood beside the dead thug, moving his arms about slightly to help with the ruse. The second thug, emerging from the floor hatch, saw Rolin, “What are ya still doing up here, man?” he asked as he climbed up the rest of the way, moving towards his friend, “Still looking for that stray cat?”
Maur moved Rolin about, making it look like he was trying to just wave his friend away, mumbling inaudibly in the process. “You’re up here getting drunk again, aren’t you!” the thug exclaimed, “You know what Malegoch will do if he catches you drinking on the job again!” The thug grabbed Rolin by the shoulder, causing his body to pitch backward, limply. “Huh? Wha…” his words were cut short as Ian suddenly appeared beside him, his short sword stabbing deeply between the man’s ribs, piercing his lungs. He let out a feint, gurgling gasp as he breathed his last.
The rest of the party quickly scrambled through the floor hatch and down the rope ladder to the warehouse floor below. Ian quickly drank another dose of his potion of invisibility before climbing down to join them.
Now in the warehouse, the party proceeded with their plan. Slightly disoriented, thanks to being invisible, most of the party managed to make their way around the varied guards and take positions at their assigned doors. Ian, practically in his element, moved quietly towards the far corner of the warehouse, where he saw a lone thug in a quiet corner. He appeared behind him, just as he slit the man’s throat. Glancing about, certain he hadn’t been seen, he ducked into the shadows, moving into position so that he could head off two more of the thugs who were loudly playing cards nearby.
Feruch followed closely behind Gideon, making their way past a number of the thugs who were busy moving several of the large crates that filled the building. Gideon took his place at the middle set of double doors, but at that moment, Feruch slammed into one of the crates, catching the attention of not only one of the thugs, but of Malegoch, as well! Both of them moved forward to see what had happened, “Be careful, you fools!” Malegoch said sternly, his hand reaching for the whip coiled at his waist.
Maur used this moment to sneak past Malegoch, who was now distracted, and likely not to notice the heavily armored, but invisible dwarf. He took his place at the southern set of double doors. Gideon, altering the plan slightly, quickly repositioned himself between the northern set of doors and a pair of thugs in that area. Using his thoughtstone, he instructed Feruch to quickly move forward and guard the middle set.
With Malegoch suspiciously pacing about Maur, one of the thugs walked around curiously, wondering what had jostled the crate. At this moment, the party moved into the second phase of their plan. Maur, his bastard sword ready, suddenly appeared beside Malegoch, landing a vicious swing aimed for the Slaver’s head. The blow was turned by the rotund man’s armor, instead sending him reeling back into a wall of crates. Simultaneously (thanks to the magic of their thoughtstones) Feruch lashed out at a nearby thug with his longsword, while Gideon bashed another with his quarterstaff. Feruch’s target narrowly avoided a fatal blow, but Gideon’s attack sent one of the thugs near him careening backward into a pile of crates that collapsed atop him, instantly taking him out of the fight.
Malegoch spun about, drawing his longsword and engaging Maur. “It’s the Watch!” one of the thugs yelled out, rushing to Malegoch’s side. He swung at Maur, who easily deflected the untrained thug’s attacks. “Not the Watch!” Malegoch yelled, “but, dead men!” slashing at Maur, repeatedly. The Slaver swung his sword more like a hammer, beating at Maur’s plate armored body. It was clear he was not a man of finesse and skill, but one accustomed to dealing with his problems with brute strength and force, plowing his enemies down before him. Maur, a stout Grailwarden suffered the many blows, but remained standing, ready to dish out his own abuse.
The two card-playing thugs jumped up, running towards the dwarf. Ian, seeing them with their back to him, rushed from the shadows, leaping onto a crate, and barrelled into one of the thugs, stabbing his sword deep into the man’s back, killing him instantly. The other thug rushed up to Maur, sliding past Malegoch, stabbing his sword deeply into Maur’s thigh.
The thug on Feruch was joined by another, forcing the paladin back against the iron double doors he was set to guard. He stabbed forward wildly, felling one of the thugs, as the second stabbed at him violently. Feruch’s plate armor deflected every sword raised against him.
Gideon parried a number of attacks from the remaining thug on him, as another rushed up to join the battle against him.
“I’ll send you to the Fungus Farms for this!” Malegoch snarled at Maur, landing a number of near crippling blows against the dwarf. The volley of attacks nearly sent Maur reeling. The staunch dwarf responded by pressed his attack, continuing to viciously stab and slash at the Slaver.
At this moment, Ian joined in to help Maur who was not only fighting the Slaver, but a pair of thugs as well. Although the dwarf was holding his own, it was clear he could not stand his ground much longer. With a flash of steel, Ian backstabbed yet another thug, felling him and kicking the body out of the way, readying to engage Malegoch, as well. The Slaver spun about to confront this new enemy, just as Maur initiated a swing in a wide sweep at the chest of Malegoch. With a crunch of steel against chain, blood sprayed from the massive wound the sword torn into the Slaver’s side. Blood pouring from his wound, Malegoch staggered to one knee, collapsing face first onto the stone tiled floor of the warehouse.
When they saw their master fall, teh remaining thugs quickly turned to flee. Gideon dropped one of the thugs on him, only to see the last one rapidly sprinting across the warehouse towards the main entrance. With a flick of his wrist, a pair of daggers appeared in his hands. Slinging them towards the fleeing thug, one arced wildly, crashing into a crate of ale, which burst open violently, sending it’s contents spilling across the floor. With a loud “thock” the second thrown dagger stabbed harmlessly into another crate, just inches from the thugs head as he wheeled about a stack of crates.
Gideon gave chase as Feruch dropped the last thug on him, then bolted across the room to aid in the chase.
The last thug on Maur turned, rushing past Ian. As Maur dropped his sword and fumbled for his bow, Ian wheeled about loosing a volley of darts. The thug suddenly leaped over a crate, hell—bent on escape, as most of the darts stabbed menacingly into the wooden crate in a tight formation. One sliced just above the crates, grazing the fleeing thugs side, but he kept running.
Gideon rushed around the stack of crates his thug had just disappeared behind. Grabbing the dagger he had thrown just a moment before, he could clearly see the thug rushing towards the exit. An underhanded throw of his dagger landed the blade in the thug’s back, just above his hip. The orcish poison coating the blade, surged through the thugs body, causing instantly his leg to go limp, sending him down and sliding across the floor, slamming into the door.
Maur, his bow now in hand, fired a volley or arrows over Ian’s head, piercing the remaining thug in the back, he dropped immediately, crashing onto a row of crates, Food and varied dry goods poured out, littering the warehouse floor.
As Gideon retrieved his daggers, he heard the distant sounds of a door slamming open and hurried footsteps rushing away through the main entrance. Any remaining thugs made good their escape, disappearing into the darkened streets and alleys of the Docks.
Hastily searching Malegoch’s body, Ian took his cloak (which looked very similar to Gideon’s cloak of resistance +1 that had been taken when the party was captured by the Ennin some time ago), long sword, whip, a coin purse, and two rings from his fingers. One of the rings was a fine bone ring that appeared to be somehow grafted onto the Slaver’s finger. Ian took the ring, finger and all as he, at last, found a key to the iron doors to the rear of the warehouse.
Saving the items to inspect at a later time, Ian passed the simple unadorned key to Maur. Without hesitation, the dwarf unlocked the door nearest him. Beyond the door was a roughly hewn stone passage, clearly carved within the cliff. The floor war loose sand, similar to that which covered the grounds of the Dock district. Lighting torches, the party proceeded to explore this new area.
After a short distance, the floor of the tunnel transitioned from sand to hard packed soil, to stone. Numerous side passages branched off in a maze-like network. The air was dry and cool. After thoroughly searching the tunnels, the party learned that each of the three sets of double doors in the warehouse allowed entry to different areas of this maze of corridors, with all passages eventually leading to a single large room. This room was of unworked stone, apparently having been roughly chiseled out of the cliff face some twenty or thirty years ago (by Maur’s reckoning) and was empty save for a couple large strips of tree bark laying in the corner. These strips were about two feet wide and close to six feet in length, slightly rounded. The outer side was heavily scuffed and scratched as if it had been rubbed against a hard or abrasive surface. Each smelled strongly like a wet dog or similar animal and scraps of coarse, dark fur was lodged in the many cracks and splits on the inside of the strip. Another passage exited the room to the east.
Exiting this room, the party found themselves in another series of rough-cut stone corridors. At long last, far ahead, Gideon, and Maur, who were now at the head of the line of party members, spotted a door at the end of the passageway. Gideon, growing impatient, rushed forward, when suddenly the floor collapsed beneath his feet. If not for his months of growing experience as a delver, he likely would have fallen headlong into the pit, but at lhe last moment, he lunged backward towards Maur. Ian and the dwarf grabbed hold of Gideon, jerking him back to safety at the last moment.
The bottom of the pit, some twenty feet below, was alit in a pale green light. Maur recognized the light as the familiar glow of phosphorescent fungus, “a common means of lighting the darkness of the underdark,” he said, confidently.
The party was now perplexed. Ian had Maur toss him across the pit to inspect the door, still some thirty feet distant. MEanwhile, Gideon retreated back to the previous room to retrieve one of the tree bark strips.
Ian carefully approached the door at the end of the passage, searching for traps. He took care with each footstep, until finally he arrived at the door. Listening closely he heard nothing beyond it. Searching again for traps, he was confident the way was clear. The door was unlocked. Carefully opening it, he saw only the cold jagged stone of the passage wall behind the door. “It’s fake!” he exclaimed, calling back to the group. “Clearly meant to draw us into that pit,” he said, returning to the party. As he came up to the edge of the pit, the party opposite him, he could now clearly see a set of recessed cutouts in the pit wall, like rungs on a ladder leading down into the pit. “I think we might be meant to climb down,” he said, as Gideon returned with one of the wooden strips. “I had thought we could use this to cross the pit,” Gideon said, tossing the strip to the side. Maur flexed his muscles, “We got him across, but it’s no good,” the dwarf said. “The door’s false,” he added, glancing down the pit.
Maur looked closely at the glowing floor of the pit, “Looks like salt,” he mumbled, referring to the fine white powdery floor of the pit, dimly lit by the cold green glow of fungus. “And their’s rungs carved in the wall, leading down,” Ian added, pointing down the hole.
“Well, no use standing here gawking,” Maur said quickly, jumping into the pit, feet first. No one could react quickly enough to stop him. By the time they realized Maur had jumped, he was already at the bottom, landing on the salty floor. His feet sunk nearly to his knees in the loose salty powder, cushioning his fall. Looking about, he was standing on a mountain of such salt. “Hah!” he bellowed, looking up at the others, who were slack-jawed at his bravery…or stupidity. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, for at that moment, he lost his footing, sliding down into the darkness.
Maur slid rapidly down the mountain of salt in a large natural chute. glowing fungus lined the walls, but it was all a blur as he descended. With a sudden jolt, he arrived at the bottom of the chute, rolling quickly to his feet. Slightly dizzy from his fall, he finds himself surrounded by several tall, dog-like gnolls. Maur fumbles for his sword, staggering about, trying to regain his senses. His arms and legs, smeared with the glowing fungus, seem to move more slowly than normal. Countless volleys of arrows are hurled at him, but most ricochet harmlessly off his armor. “Gnooooollshhhhhh! I’mmmmmm shhhhhuuuuurrrrrounnnnn——-deddddduh,” he yells up the chute, his speech oddly slurred. Everything about him seems slowed. He glances to the rushing gnolls, armed with spears, then trods towards them.
Howls and snarls echo up the chute to the party far above. Ian leaps down the chute, quickly followed by Gideon and Feruch. A moment later, Ian rolls down beside Maur, but in that same instant, Gideon crashes down behind him. Ian, deft and quick, leaps forward, slashing at one of the gnolls, as Gideon comes to rest flat on his face, beside them. Feruch, quickly sliding down behind, twists his hips to angle himself to miss Gideon. He narrowly avoids his companion, coming to rest beside him.
Four gnolls are instantly upon them, stabbing into their closed formation with spears. six more stand to the rear of the large rectangular room, preparing to loose another massive volley of arrows. A desperate battle commences. Feruch and Ian rush the archers, intent upon ending their deadly volleys. Gideon and Maur stand close to deal with the gnolls armed with spears. Maur, normally, a mighty foe in battle, is greatly hindered though by the lingering effect of the fungus. Every step is a labor, every swing slowed, even his thoughts and speech are affected. Finally, the effect of the glowing fungus fades ads the battle draws to a close. The many gnolls lay dead, scattered across the chamber floor. The party, several severely wounded, were all accounted for. Maur had taken the worst of it, with several arrows protruding from his armor. Feruch rushed to his aid, healing him instantly with his rod of healing. “We need to be cautious,” he said glancing to the feintly glowing rod, after healing Maur, “It’s power is growing weak. Not much left in it.”
Knowing there were likely many battles ahead, Gideon knew that Feruch’s warning was to be taken seriously. “Very true, my friend,” he said, glancing back at the salt filled chute, “buy there is no going back the way we came. We can only press forward and deal with what comes.”
“Aye, the Markessa must be down here, somewhere,” Maur mentioned, “What did that wizard say?”
“He said a set of double doors, passages that turn from sand to stone, a glowing cavern, and a columned hall with gnolls,” Gideon recounted Master Autuimnsong’s vision, “We should be close to the town or whatever it is that she’s holed up in.”
“There aren’t any columns here,” Ian pronounced, glancing about the room. Sure enough the room was bare with no such adornment. Several passages led out of the room, a pair to the west, opposite the chute, one to the southwest, another to the south and yet another to the southeast. Between these last two passages, another hall led south out of the room. This one was of worked stone, the first they had seen in this delve.
“I vote for that one,” Maur said, pointing to the hall of worked stone. “True, it’s not to dwarven standards, but someone tried to make it fancy for a reason.”
“Another lure to lead us into a trap,” Gideon said, beginning to grow flustered. “All of this has been just one trap or ambush after another.”
“Good point,” Feruch agreed, “Why would the Markessa ever have gone this way?”
“Perhaps she figured we would follow her, she’s not a fool.” Ian quipped.
“BAH!” Maur snarled, “we spend too much time talking, let’s find this she-elf and be done with it!” He started walking down the hall of worked stone. The rest of the party fell in behind. “Never knew a dwarf that was so eager to leave a cavern,” Gideon joked, coming up beside him. “Then you haven’t known many dwarves when there’s a task at hand,” Maur said bluntly, “I relish every moment in these caves, but I can’t enjoy it knowing the Markessa and her ilk are hiding out down here….polluting the place.” He spat out these final words, as if they left a bad taste in his mouth.
The party followed the long, angular hallway several hundred feet before fit finally widens into a rough-hewn, natural cavern area of approximately octagonal shape. This area is also lit by luminous fungus. The exact size of the room is difficult to determine because of the large number of stalagmites and stalactites present. Directly opposite the entry, over a hundred feet away, was a door of iron banded wood.
“Careful,” Maur said, glancing up at the dagger-like stalactites above, “in the caverns and tunnels of my homeland, there are creatures that resemble those rocky protrusions from the ceiling. They will drop down on unsuspecting prey. We call them piercers.” The rest of the party nodded in understanding, as Maur guided them into the cavern.
Sure enough, as soon as the party neared the center of the room, a number of such creatures dropped down from the ceiling above. If not for MAur’s warning, they could have easily killed one or more of the party. Maur, deflecting a number of them with his shield, turned to see another passageway now visible in the eastern wall, behind a pair of tall stalagmites. Ignoring the door, he ran towards the passageway. The party immediately followed, piercers crashing down by the dozens, about them all along the way. Gideon overtook him, rushing into the short passage, only to see several gnolls feeding raw meat to three massive hyenadons. Upon seeing him, the gnoll cackled out, tossing a piece of the raw meat towards Gideon and the party. The meat landed at his feet. The hyenadons were instanty upon them!
Feruch and Maur struggled to hold back the hyenadons, as Maur and Ian, lagging behind, continued to weave and dodge, avoiding the piercers who continued to rain down. Maur finally made his way to the hallway, bull rushing one of the hynadons, “Gotta make room,” he snarled, slamming into the beast with all his strength, shoving the hyenadon down the passage into the room with it’s gnoll handlers. The party rushed in, quickly felling the creatures, dodging the many arrows and axe blows of the gnolls.
The battle soon ended, the party triumphant. Ian spotted a gold ring on the forpaw of one of the gnolls, pocketing it. The party then moved to the south end of the room to inspect a door they had found, the only exit from the room. Beyond this door, another one of the familiar rough-hewn stone passages, beckoned them onwards.After exploring another maze-like arrangement of passages, the party came to another chamber.
The passageway enters a 30‘ wide, 70’ long, 20’ high room. Stone steps descend into a pool of white, bubbling,
transluscent goo and emerge from the muck on the other end. A 1‘ wide stone bridge arches some 5‘ above the pool crossing all the way to the other end of the room. Bisecting the room exactly halfway across the bridge is a 30’ wide, 20’ high, 5‘ thick wall of transparent, crackling blue fire that leaps from wall to wall and from the ceiling to the surface of the goo. The air smells as if a lightning bolt has struck nearby.
Unsure how to proceed, Maur tossed the end of his rope into the goo. It rested on the surface, briefly, before slowly sinking beneath it’s surface. Retrieving the rope, he found it unharmed but covered in the thick, viscous goo.
“There was nothing said about this!” Gideon said, bewildered, “Automsong didn’t see this in his vision.”
Feruch shrugged, “Maybe this was put here after the Markessa passed, perhaps to delay us.”
“Any ideas on how we get past it then?” Gideon glanced about.
“I don’t know,” Maur said, his gaze turning to Ian, “but I’m sure a master thief can figure it out.”