The party’s return to Bysorth with Myra Staul was delayed by the seasonal flooding of the Gomai. They spent the time in nearby villages enjoying the harvest festivals. After two weeks time, the crossings reopened and Myra and Doven were reunited.
At The Smiling Naga Dav and Savik overhear conversation of a discovery in the Hephsas Mine. No one seems to know for sure what it is, and the stories vary wildly. Rond Kelfem arrives later in the night, accompanied by Falemo. He introduces Falemo as an old friend from Winterhaven whom Lord Padraig had asked to assist in Bysorth.
Captain Kelfem expresses his bewilderment at the art of politics, but clearly understands the two rival factions within the Senate. He is doing his best to remain neutral in it all, but it is difficult. He has also heard the rumors about the discovery in the mines; it’s been all over the city. The Miner’s Guild is prepared to make a formal announcement. He mentions an invitation to Orem Manor, home of the Guldanni family, the following evening. He asks the party to accompany him.
The event at Orem Manor is not nearly as lavish as the palace ball, but in attendance are most all of the Senators of theWorker’s Party and many of their influential friends. Without much warning, Urud Guldanni enters the chamber with a small entourage. After the crowd quieted, his brother Jorn begins to speak.
He explains that the Guild had broken into an entirely new expanse of cavern deep in the Hephsas mine, a network of old lava tubes. Not long after their discovery, the attacks of Dwarf Lords increased drastically. Since King Orren would not commit Bysorth’s army to protecting its workers, territory, and its treasure, they had made other arrangements.
At this point Jorn welcomed Kirion Lithren and a cadre of Drow. The crowd seemed shocked, and Savik stormed out of the manor after his former mentor gave him a knowing nod. Kirion explained that he had been working tirelessly over the years to establish relations with The Zinthacor Drow, and the recent surge in Dwarven attacks on both the Drow and Bysorth suggested the time was right for an alliance. Jorn Guldanni then announced his intentions to take the matter before the Senate.
Over the next few days the debate in the Senate raged and the party was kept in the know from Captain Kelfem. The Eldarin and many elven Senators were outraged at the thought of a treaty with the Drow, and the unspoken threat of succession was obvious. However, the Drow were already integrating with the humans in Hephsas Mine and fortifying new positions that encroached into Dwarven territory.
Also, the Miner’s Guild revealed it had sent a group into the newly discovered caverns to scout. That was almost 2 weeks prior, and they had not returned. After they had been missing for 5 days, a joint group of Drow spelunkers and humans were sent to find them. They too had not returned. King Orren himself appeared before the Senate to demand a military scouting party be sent in, but Jorn Guldanni had blocked the motion claiming that by law the Bysorth Military had no right to operate inside the mines.
Captain Kelfem has a plan, and asks Kelton to speak to his Gerald Osprey, and ask him to sponsor Kelton and his friends as a neutral party to investigate the ancient caverns that the Dwarves seemed so interested in. Kelton does so, and his father brings the motion before the Senate in their next session. No objections are voiced, and it is agreed that the party will be sent into Hephsas Mine that very night.
The party is escorted deep into the earth, past the regular mining operations and down long, winding tunnels on newly laid mining cart track. They come to a large natural cavern containing a Guild encampment, featuring a rough but sturdy reinforced wood wall cutting the chamber in half. The encampment is under attack by dwarven bear riders, some of which break through the outer defense of Drow and attack the party.
After defeating the dwarves, the miners opened a large barricade they had erected and let the party through into the old lava tube, closing it behind them. Upon their return, they need only ask and they’d be let out.
After several hours of travel the party stumbled upon a lair of ettercaps and their spider pets. The battle was short. Exploring the lair they found the remains of some humans, probably the original expedition, and signs of several humanoids passing through hastily.
Almost a day passed as they followed the trail deeper into the earth. A sudden tunnel collapse caught Dav and Kelton by surprise, and the plummeted over a hundred feet down a smooth rock chute and into a worked stone chamber. Lowering a rope, the rest of the party joined them.
They found themselves inside the remains of an ancient tower of unknown origin. Some walls were adorned with strange reliefs and alien writing. Exploring, they discovered an ancient library with a few preserved ritual tomes still intact and a strange elevator system. In the basement of the tower they found incredible, but inoperative workshops for the creation of golems, a dusty but still functional alchemy lab, and a huge, strange device full of crystals with tubes that extended up and out in all directions.
Kelton used a ritual to repair a shattered focus crystal within the device and the tower sprung to life. Back in the library, they decoded a magical panel that was locking the elevator and travelled to the upper levels. Above, the party was attacked by undead mages, spirits, and golem soldiers. Battling through the awakened guardians, the party was met by the tower’s master, a robed skeletal figure wielding a large frosty scythe.
A fierce battle waged, the master attacking with bursts of icy magic and the tower itself pummeling the heroes with magical bolts and electric shocks from the floor. Eventually the creature was defeated, and it vanished with a cry that sounded almost relieved. Searching the chamber, the discovered the sc raps of an old journal. Kelton used a ritual to decipher it. It read,
We had hoped sealing the tower and disabling the power reactor would calm the tensions, but our best intentions have wrought disaster. War has broken out within our city as it has on the surface above, but here we kill only ourselves.
The fighting has raged for weeks now, and it seems neither side will be satisfied with anything less that the total destruction of their enemy. The definition of who is and is not enemy, however, is so nebulous that I fear nothing short of a self inflicted genocide awaits our once great people.
The rage that once burned in my heart has died and now I feel only sadness.
Deciding to rest in a defensible room with in the tower, the party holed up for some sleep. During their rest, they could hear faint sobbing in the distance, which would occasionally turn to anguished screams. Halfway through their rest a rumble disturbed them from below. From a window they saw the large golem from the basement, now animated, leaving the tower.
After their rest the party left the tower, descending a great staircase into what appeared to be the streets of a city. Their lights cast flickering reflections off huge crystals growing from the ceiling of the massive cavern, appearing almost as starlight. After some exploration they learned that they had found a massive city built into the bottom of an enormous geode.
They made their way through the streets, following the sounds of the wailing in the distance. Along the way they passed a large walled barracks, in which Savik could make out the shapes of patrolling golems.
They progressed further, trying to avoid contact with the great patrolling golem that still walked the streets. Unfortunately, Falemo was spotted, and he attempted to communicate with it. It spoke in a strange language at first, then seemed to malfunction and began repeating the same phrase over and over, “Pi pi pi..” The golem attacked Falemo, slamming him into a house which collapsed onto him. The rest of the party fled.
Eventually they came upon a crumbling manor house which seemed to be the source of the wailing. Inside, they were attacked by raging spirits along with a screaming banshee spirit. Dav fell through a trap door into a basement, where he was nearly eviscerated by ghouls. Sephori jumped in after him and saved his life while the rest of the party drove off the spirits and chased the banshee into the upper levels.
Pursuing, they did battle with the banshee and her ghostly servitors. They defeated the wretched spirit, and within the master bedroom found the following letter sealed within a scroll tube:
and now I hear stories of people disappearing from their homes in the night.
For too long our people have followed a path of destruction. We have sent our children and our friends to die time and again and none of the promised glory has been realized.
Our history has been fraught with pain and hardship; our only legacy is the well unrealized potential of each wasted soul who gave their lives for nothing. We had hoped a new path lay before us when we cast aside our old governance, but with every day that passes I fear the old ways have never really died.
I have faith in (here the words were scribbled out, and above in rough script was written’ BETRAYER’), and I know she has long desired the best for our people. But the time for petty politics is over. The old war machines that nearly led our people to extinction not so long ago are once again stirring in secret.
Now, together, we must show with absolute unity that if we are fight and die, it will not be for riches, not for any self-styled King or Emperor, and not in the name of any God. If war is our destiny, we fight will for our family and fellows. We must fight only for ourselves.
Before long they could hear faint cries in the air, and saw signs of the banshee they had just defeated rematerializing. Knowing the guardian golem still walked the streets, but too weak to battle the banshee again, the party fled for the relative safety of the walled barracks. They hid within its walls for the night, out of sight of the patrolling golems. The next day they ventured inside, making short work of the golems after a good rest.
The party delved deep into the barracks dungeon, and encountered a devil with a peculiar affect, trapped within a summoning circle. The devil admitted that he had been there for almost 3000 years, having been summoned but never commanded. His summoner was slain shortly after completing the ritual and he had been trapped ever since.
The party negotiated with the devil, promising his release in exchange for answering a series of questions honestly. The devil agreed, conjured a contract, and the bargain was struck. While he had no knowledge of current events, having been stuck in this room for 3000 years, he was able to answer questions about the city and what happened.
He claimed the original inhabitants were drow, and that the city had destroyed itself in civil war. At the height of the fighting, an eruption of hellfire occurred, originating from the temple at the heart of the city. He claimed that all the inhabitants were slain save one, who managed to escape. He did not know if that survivor lived today, but reasoned it was possible given elven life spans.
The devil said the city’s raging spirits were being awakened and dragged into their old conflicts by a dark presence he could feel emerging from the center of the city. He told the party that ancient rituals were again being performed at the temple, and said they could make their way down through the dungeons of these barracks.
They party made their way into the dungeons and discovered Falemo, who had been tossed by the guardian golem into a chute that led to a cell. Together they fought their way through the mazelike dungeon, continuously harried by the angry dead.
Eventually they emerged into the lower streets of the old city, and saw a group of humans and drow engaged with the same golem that had attacked them in the streets above. They slipped by in the chaos and made their way into the wicked looking temple.
Inside they encountered a group of humans and drow performing a dark ritual. A nude drow woman, chained to a cross, was being lowered into a pool of lava. Spotting some robes nearby, the party tried to bluff their way closer to the altar. Ultimately their bluff succeded, as the leader of the ritual, a drow man who had grown twisting horns and leathery black wings, insisted Savik be brought to the altar to sacrifice.
Savik sprang to action at the last instant, escaping the altar and freeing the captive drow woman in one acrobatic action. A battle raged over spewing gouts of lava, and the party was aided by the freed prisoner against what was clearly the remains second scouting party. Eventually the cultists were defeated, and the leader of the ritual’s infernal mutations fell off and turned to dust. On his body Kelton discovered a leather-bound tome.
Their victory was short lived, as the lava beneath them began to bubble up. Fleeing the inner temple, they were cut off by the guardian golem who was making his way toward the temple. Spotting a collapsed wall leading to a cool lava tube, the party fled the temple as falling debris blocked the path behind them.
The drow woman, named Sudixth Merrin, confirmed that those were indeed the second scouting party, of which she was a member. They had discovered the city several days prior and had become trapped inside. She said that it was quiet until just 2 days ago, when the undead began to wake. It was at that time that her brother Kagen had discovered the tome which Kelton recovered. Su said that he began to get moody, and the more he read the more it changed him. The corrupting influence spread to the rest of their party, and she too had felt it but managed to resist.
Her story was interrupted by their emergence into a large crystal cavern. The floor was wet and a large pool of warm, salty water filled one side of the cave. Several tall, symmetrical crystals were standing in various places throughout the cavern, each fitted with a strange control panel.
Before they could study them further, the guardian golem found the party. Upon entering the cavern the energies of the crystals seemed to repair its speech, and it made an inquiry of Su. Bewildered, and not understanding the thing, she simply nodded her head, which caused the golem to attack.
It unleashed a flurry of arcane firepower, and was protected by an almost impenetrable magical shield. Sephori realized the golem was drawing power from the large crystals. While Dav and Falemo did their best to hold off the golem, Savik and Su set to disabling the control panels on the large crystals so Sephori and Kelton could dispel their magic energies. The plan succeeded, and the golem was destroyed.
From the thing’s back, a large rod was ejected in a gout of acrid steam. A crystalline tube approximately 2 feet long and six inches thick, with an inner diameter of roughly an inch…