The party finally decided to go with their standard attack plan: Charge in and hope for the best. The dinosaur immediately turned toward the party as they rushed in, bellowed out, and charged forward. Gideon rushed in, with Maur just behind him.Ian and Feruch were soon behind them. Maur fired a volley of arrows as the charging dinosaur, with most bouncing harmlessly off its thick armored hide. Gideon brandished one of his rune stones, spoke the magical words and launched a bolt of light directly into the face of the beast, blinding it.
At that moment, from behind the pillars, several gnolls, armed with long bows, emerged, firing several volleys at the party, driving them back into the hallway. As the party fell back, the gigantic gnoll god at the far end of the room rose from his throne, directing the gnolls and ghouls at his side to move forward and engage.
The party had hoped to lure the creatures into the hallway, so that their numerical superiority would be countered. The gnolls did not fall for this simple ploy, however, instead taking defensive positions, reading to turn the party into pin cushions.
The party decided to charge forward again, this time, all four of them at once. As they rushed into the room, the blinded dinosaur was charging about erratically. The gnoll archers fired numerous volleys, but the party closed the distance rapidly, joining them in melee combat.
The gnoll god cast numerous spell against the party. magic missiles, fear, color spray and the like. Although the party proved vulnerable to the effects, the spells were not powerful enough to turn the tide of the company of heroes.
As the last gnoll archer fell, the gnoll infantry and ghouls arrived. The party suffered several serious injuries from these foes, and expended several of the magical items before realizing they were illusions.
The rear portion of the room, now occupied by only the gnoll god, suddenly was blackened by a dense magical darkness. The party rushed to the edge of the darkness, but even Maur’s dwarven nightvision could not penetrate it. Gideon, having dismissed the last of the illusions, then came forward, using another of the runestones to dismiss the darkness.
At that instant, he saw the gnoll god running to the back corner of the chamber. The illusion cast upon the creature dropped, revealing a decrepit and wizened old man dressed in robes, who immediately disappeared through a secret door, slamming it shut behind him.
The party lunged towards the door, intent upon capturing the illusionist, but the door was held fast. A faint clicking noise was audible from beyond the door. Between Maur and Ian, the party soon figured out the secret door was on some sort of timed locking mechanism and they would have to wait to get through the door and give chase. Maur, growing impatient, even tried to smash his way through the door, but miraculously, the thick stone proved unshakeable.
After some time, Ian took a moment to search around the marble throne the illusionist had sat upon during the battle. He managed to find a small secret compartment in the base of the throne, which held a number of gems, and a map.
Looking over the map, the party was able to identify their present location, as well as a series of tunnels beyond the secret door, which eventually lead to a massive underground cavern several miles away. According to the map, there was a small town in this cavern, complete with its own docks,
After about a half hour, the time lock on the secret door expired and the party entered the tunnels, making their way to the hidden city.
After several hours and an indeterminate number of miles, the party found the massive hidden cavern. Much of the floor of this cavern was covered in a forest of mushrooms. Nearby, they saw a cleared highland area where a fungus farm was located. Near the center of the chamber, a walled town awaited them. Outside the walls, just north of town a collection of shanties gave way to a set of docks on a rushing subterranean river. The whole cavern was illuminated with a pale green glow from the luminous fungi clinging to the walls and ceiling.
Guards manned the walls and guard towers surrounding the town. Patrols were spotted patrol the town, both inside and outside it’s walls. A line of visitors were awaiting admittance at the gate.
The party made their way to the shanties and managed to ambush a small group of merchants, binding and gagging them. From them, they learned this was known as the City of the Nine, and that the Ennin leadership ruled the city from a fortified citadel within the walls. While the town had permanent occupants, mostly farmers for the fungal farms and mushroom fields, most were guards employed by the Ennin, their agents, or merchants and others seeking to buy slaves at the central slave market. The party secured admission papers from the captured merchants, donned their robes and proceeded.
Now disguised as slave merchants, the party gained entry to the city with relative ease. As they cleared the gate, they foudn a street lined with barracks on one side, and bars and rtaverns on the other. Several people were milling about, making their way towards the center of town, where the party could see a round coliseum – the slave market of the Ennin.
A man, obviously a beggar, suddenly emerged from the crowd to speak with one of the party, but Gideon intercepted him, shoving the beggar to the ground. “We need to keep moving!” he said with some urgency to the rest of the group.
Recalling Autumsong’s divination, the party began looking for a building with red roses above the entrance. After roaming around the streets for a few hours, doing their best to avoid the numerous guard patrols, the party found the massive walled citadel of the Nine, the treasury of the Ennin, a temple to a god known as the Earth Dragon, a residential quarter, and several inns, taverns and a brothel.
The brothel was known as the “Sign of the Rose”. Above the front door hung a wooden sign consisting of a bouquet of red roses. The party entered.
The madame took some bribing, but she finally stopped trying to entice the party members with one of her many “girls”. She finally explained that Markessa had a private room down the hall.
The party, expecting to have their target cornered, moved into position, but upon barging into the room, no one was there. While it was a well appointed bed chamber, there was no Markessa, or anyone else to speak of. Again, recalling Autumnsong’s vision, the party looked under the bed, and there, as expected, was a trap door.
The party descended and soon found themselves in a relatively new complex of rooms and tunnels. Maur could tell the passages were clearly of human make, but appear to have been crafted by unskilled laborers (likely, slaves) and that the work had been done no more than fifteen years ago.
The party found themselves first in a room with a large platemail armored statue. As the party entered, it animated and demanded they flee or be destroyed. keeping a watchful eye on the statue, which turned to face them as they moved about the room, but never attacked, the party found a secret door and continued forward.
The party avoided several traps and an ambush by a pair of hellhounds, only to eventually find themselves in a labyrinth of tunnels filled with arrow traps and a minotaur that would accost them by firing a giant crossbow at them from the darkened hallways. The party eventually traced the minotaur to it’s lair and slew it mercilessly.
The party pressed onward, then confronting a gelatinous cube. With a bit of skill, they were able to avoid the creature, only to find themselves on the shores of a black subterranean lake. Several albino fish floated, dead, on its surface. Tall mushrooms, as big as a man, grew along it’s banks. The party slowly made their way along the moss covered floor, careful to avoid the water’s edge. After a perilous encounter with a shambling mound and a pair of giant constrictor snakes, the party crossed the large cavern, only to find a worked stone passageway, illuminated rugularly by a series of oil lamps. At the end of the hallway was a massive iron door.
“This is where the vision ended,” Gideon referred to Autumnsong’s vision with a whisper. “What we are looking for should be beyond this door.”
:Let’s go, then," Ian said resolutely. Maur and Feruch nodded in agreement.
The party opened the door carefully, sliding into the room. They were not prepared for what awaited them.
The room was brightly illuminated. Nine thrones sat in a row at the far end of the room. A spiral staircase rose up from a nearby corner. Half the thrones were occupied. “Greetings, delvers,” Eanwulf addressed the party from the central throne as they entered. Several other Slave Lords of the Ennin were also present: Brother Millerjoi, Nerelas, Ajakstu, and farthest from the party Stallman Klim. Beside Stallman stood Markessa.
“We were rather surprised that you would be joining us here, but since you’ve traveled so far,” Eanwulf said with a grin, “we thought best to receive you here formally.”
“We are just here for the Markessa,” Gideon said, his eyes scanning the many enemies and quickly deducing the party was outmatched. Millerjoi, and Ajakstu were likely mages, Nerelas appeared to be an adept assassin, and Stallman was obviously a priest.
“Well, she has been quite a handful lately, " Eanwulf said casually. “Of course, most of the trouble has been caused by you four, from what I gather.”
“We will bargain for her,” Gideon pressed.
“Oh, really?” Eanwulf seemed impressed by Gideon’s attitude. “We are flesh merchants, afterall. What do you think about this Stallman?” He glanced to the priest, “Should we entertain selling one of our own?”
“It’s rather unprecedented, but so is someone coming here unannounced and unwanted,” Stallman replied cooly. Markessa was visibly shaken, but said nothing in her defense.
“Well then,” Eanwulf glanced briefly at Markessa before turning back to the party, “What would you offer in return for one of our own?”
The party offered several bags of gems and coins, but Eanwulf was unmoved. Finally, he looked to Maur, “That belt you wear, the one which gives you such impressive strength. I think that would be enough for me to part with an inept member of our order.”
Surprisingly, the deal was made, with plans to make the exchange at the Old Goose the following morning. The party would be allowed to leave the way they came.
Just before leaving, Gideon spoke up, “I would like you to know, Eanwulf, that there is a traitor in your midst.” He motioned to the priest. “Stallman is a member of a group called the Pactlords of the Quaan. He’s working against you.”
“Really?” Eanwulf glanced between Gideon and Stallman cautiously, “You would stand here, in these very chambers and make such accusations! You best have proof!”
Gideon pressed his point, “Did you know Malegoch very well?” Before Eanwulf could answer, Gideon reached into his bag, tossing Malegoch’s finger bearing the bone ring of the Quaan at the slave lord’s feet. “We took this from him when we killed him,” Gideon said with a hint of triumphant indignation.
Eanwulf, enraged by the display and comments, brandished his whip, rising from his throne, he cast a quick glance to Ajakstu, who prepared to cast a spell.
“Look on Stallman’s hand,” Gideon said quickly, “he bears the same ring! In fact, several members of your group do,” motioning to Nerelas.
“Lies!” yelled Stallman, rising to his feet.
He cast a quick glance to Ajakstu, as his spell suddenly went off. A magical ring of energy instantly surrounded the party, cutting off any form of escape.
Stallman glanced up to the ceiling, where the party herd a muffled click as a vial was thrown from a small murder hole above them, which quickly slammed closed. The vial landed hard on the floor in the midst of the party, releasing a green gas that soon filled the air around them. As the last member of the party lapsed into unconsciousness, a triumphant Eanwulf and Stallman Klim walked towards them.
There was only darkness.