LAST TIME, IN THE UNDERDARK… the adventurers went down the dark tunnel in search of the caravan.
THIS TIME, IN THE UNDERDARK… We find our adventurers traveling down the Southern King’s Highway. They travel for a few days, encountering fewer and fewer people as they go until they see no one at all on the third day. There are smaller tunnels occasionally diverging from the main path, some of which go toward the surface and others downwards into darkness. The Highway is straight, and an endless darkness seems to stretch in both directions, while the small stream of rust-colored liquid gurgles over the rocks along the edges of the tunnel and makes the only sounds other than those of the adventurers themselves. At the end of the third day, they begin to feel small tremors in the earth below them, and the shaking gradually grows as they travel onwards. Up ahead of them they see what looks like a wall blocking the Highway, and upon further investigation they perceive that there was a cave-in. Despite Moostoron’s grandest efforts, he only succeeds in hurting his hand when he tries to move the obstruction. Giving up hope, the party turns back, looking in vain for another path to follow. Immediately the earth shudders violently, and they can hear small pebbles clattering to the floor as a small hole opens in the wall just to the right of the blockage. Peering in, Diedrich sees a path, and showing considerable strength, Torment and Moostoron gradually carve out an opening large enough for the party to pass through. The group goes down the passage single-file. Up ahead they can see a faint glow, and those at the front of the party tentatively step out into a large cavern spotted with large rocks jutting from the ground. What they see there, however, gives them pause. Several stocky men with vicious-looking beards, who the party recognizes to be duergar, are rifling through the pockets of several dead men wearing scarlet regalia, Lord Sebastian’s color. At the far side of the cavern lies the remnants of carts and the draft animals used to pull them. Although Moostoron gracefully kept Iados from falling on his face, Diedrich wasn’t so lucky and fell, attracting the attention of the pillagers. With a mighty roar, the duergars sped towards the intruders, and the battle began. Moostoron held fast in the center of the room, keeping all enemy eyes trained on him as Iados and Edger crept around the room shrouded in darkness, stabbing their enemies and blinding them with dark magic. Zazenna and Diedrich occupied other enemies near the opening of the cavern, and the party slowly but surely whittled away their opponents’ numbers. In the middle of the battle, a small red drake crept from behind some rocks, occasionally screeching at the combatants as if to say ‘keep it down!’ as he fed on the remnants of the caravan. Perceiving no threat from the beast, the group fought on until one duergar remained, at which time the earth suddenly began to shake violently. Giant holes grew in the floor as the earth crumbled into the depths below and rocks rained from the ceiling, luckily missing the adventurers. The last duergar’s face registered unadulterated panic, and he turned to run just as a maw made from the earth itself came out of the rock, swallowing him whole. The fanged mouth slowly rose from the ground, also showing a long neck, thick body, strong legs and a whip-like tail all made from stone and shimmering with small streams of lava running over its form. Large wings made from rock with obsidian touches swept the room, and the group found itself facing a large, hungry-looking adult Earthquake Dragon. The small drake immediately fled in terror, hiding behind one of the remaining rocks. The group was able to perceive that this was the creature that had caused the cave-in, as well as the tremors that had been plaguing the Highway. Torment, conscious of the group’s weariness after fighting the duergars, attempted to speak to the dragon. In a remarkable bluff, Torment convinced the dragon that another, larger group of travelers was not far off, and with his remarkable diplomatic skills Torment also suggested that the dragon’s energy would be better used hunting them. Considering the tiefling’s words, the dragon finally agreed to go off in search of this other group, if the party would be willing to give it one thousand gold pieces for its trouble. Diedrich came forward, paying the majority of the sum while the others chipped in. Satisfied, the dragon burrowed into the earth, which immediately set the ground to shaking again. This time, however, the ground continued to shudder more and more violently, and the entire group found themselves pitched downwards, falling into the seemingly endless darkness below. After falling for some time, and with the ground fast approaching, the group seemed to feel almost a web of energy catch them, slowing their descent and preventing their immediate demise. The impact caused all of them to lose consciousness, even their new drake companion, but when they all awoke much later they found themselves lying on a pile of rubble, deep below the cavern they had fought in. The room, though obviously in a state of disuse, featured a white-and-black tiled floor and an ornate set of doors and pillars, making it feel like it had once been a place of great power. While the others explored the room, Edger found small bits of the former caravan to feed to the drake, whom the group dubbed ‘Sparky.’ The others, looking around their room, encountered grotesque and disturbing statues and paintings adorning the walls. Visions of torture, pain, and lasciviousness were portrayed on every surface, and the statues showed contorted men and women torn between agony and ecstasy. The entire group could feel the air resting heavily, and knew that they were the first ones to find it in many years. They could also sense strong waves of arcane and religious energy coming from the sole door in the room in waves. Going through this door, they found themselves in a wide hallway which ended in a giant obsidian door marked with a symbol looking somewhat like a T with an O at the bottom of it. Looking at the walls, they again depicted atrocities, but of a more graphic nature. The smell of blood grew stronger as they reached the end of the hall, the paintings gradually turning to a cracked, dark brown surface. The group stood in front of the door, wary of the situation and debating what to do. Edger, seizing the initiative, attempted to teleport through the door when Moostoron’s strength failed to move it. He disappeared from sight, and the group could hear a brutal roar of agony rip through space itself as Edger was hurled back into their plane of existence, surrounded by crackling blue light as he flew backwards twenty feet, landing on his back. The group opted for a different approach. Utilizing their knowledge of arcana, religion, and dungeoneering, the group managed to open the large obsidian doors. They found themselves in a large, square room seemingly without a ceiling. Oddly enough, torches were burning all along the edges of the room, and a dais stood in the center, shrouded in darkness but with a small scrap of paper distinctly sitting on its surface. The air in the room was stale and sour, and the once-grand pillars that extended ever-upwards were crumbling and sections of the floor had given way to rubble. While they searched the room, Moostoron found himself gravitating ever-closer to the dais. Although Iados and Edger also showed interest, they could not seem to read any of what was written on the paper. Edger tried burning it, but the flames licked at its surface without damaging it. Moostoron, curious about the nature of the document, went to pick it up. As soon as his fingers grazed the parchment, the entire room was plunged into darkness, the torches suddenly extinguished, leaving the group entirely in the dark. The only sound that could be heard was Moostoron’s pained bellow, and the few who could see watched him fall to his knees, clawing at his head and face as four figures swathed in shadows fell from the ceiling, grinning at the shocked adventurers.