The Journey to Gauntlgrym
The long, long, LONNNG, journey

Several days further into the Underdark, the party finds a use for their newfound Dwarven companions – as scouts for danger. And so it goes for the next several days – Alastair sends "Tempest Squad" ahead to scout and soaks up all the danger! This plan of action works for the next several encounters:

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The 'beautiful' Formorian & Wild Magic Fungus

After sending Siobhan (dwarf zombie) out to scout a particularly luminous fungus cavern, a hateful voice cried out about “beauty” and “magic”, ranting about how much it hates those things…and a giant ogre-like creature strikes down Siobhan!


Alastair immediately goes to defend Siobhan, causing the party to follow suit, but when he attempts to throw magic around, the craziest things happen:

  • Greda turns invisible
  • A Unicorn is summoned!
  • Other “wild magic” consequences (which I have forgotten)!

Hunting the Hunted

Several more days on their journey, the party realizes they are being tracked? But by who? Fearful of who it might be (Drow? The Aboleth? Reiker), the party sets a trap for them using Kyr’s forge magic and the cavernous terrain – destroying the hunting party of…Orcs (and a Cave Troll)

But who is Merrick really, though?

While traveling through some particularly canyon-esque terrain in the Under Dark, the party is ambushed by an Elvish Ranger named Phaedra. While she hurls warning arrows at the party, demanding that they give up the Kin slayer, “Soren,” to her, her animal companion grapples Merrick, dragging him away!

The party leaps into action to save one of their own (too bad they don't bother to do that for Tempest Squad)!  The thought of Merrick's capture sends Greda in particular into a furious rage – she goes after Phaedra herself.  

But wait – Phaedra commanded Merrick to take the Kinslayer away? What is going on???

After a seemingly endless battle in the UnderDark canyons (damn, Phaedra is strong), Merrick tries to talk some sense into his sister and her animal companion, Merrick…..which means that the ‘elf Merrick‘…is Soren.

The party learns that Merrick/Soren is wanted for murder and his sister, Phaedra, has been hunting him to bring him to justice. Merrick/Soren insists that he is innocent (he was not responsible for his actions), but Phaedra will not be deterred. It’s not until Merrick finally fires a shot at Phaedra (with his Bow of Wounding) that she flees.

Sadly, Tempest Squad ‘survived’ the battle.

A ‘Derro’ of Deep Gnomes

A single day later, the party encounter an imprisoned family of Deep Gnomes (Smurf-Meddlins?) chained to a giant crystal. Gwairn springs into action and is the first to attempt to free them (as well trying to sense any divine presence). The family informs them that a clan of Derro imprisoned them and have been forcing them to mine the crystal that they’ve been chained to, which – according to Gwairn – holds something powerful inside it. The party tries to learn more about the family (like where they’re going or where they’re from) but Gwairn won’t let them.

There is no chance to press the issue further as the party is soon accosted by the by the imprisoning Derro!

(Cue fight scene – omitted to cut out how many times everyone fell in battle)

The Derro fight hard and underhandedly (sneak-attacking and the like), but are soon bested and flee, leaving behind the Deep Gnome family and the mysterious crystal.

But that is only half the encounter! Sure, the fighting is over, but the argument over the crystal and the family continues!

  • Gwairn: These people are delusional (I am delusional)! Blingdonstone does not exist!
  • Kyr: We must take these refugees with us to Gauntlgrym!
  • Gnome Family: We want to continue on our trek to Blingdonstone….which exists! And hey, there’s something inside that crystal!

Even more arguments ensue (now about what to do with the Crystal), but before it goes on too long, Kyr smashes the crystal – freeing a servant of the Skein inside of it!

As a reward for freeing him, the Skein offers the travelers a boon – to send them where they need to be. But the party still cannot agree:

  • To Gauntlgrym? To complete their quest for Queen Eldith (and aid for Blingdonstone?)
  • To Blingdonstone? A terrible ooze has taken over there! 

The party eventually agrees to part ways with the deep Gnomes (although Kyr tries his best to persuade the eldest daughter to join them), taking with them a letter with them. And after a few heartfelt goodbyes….the party is immediately transported to the Throne room of King BattleHammer!

Onwards (Finally!): To Gauntlgrym!

When last we left off: Our party’s adventure in NeverLight Grove has resulted in its destruction, with thousands of michonid lives lost to the ‘glory’ of Filo and the ‘dark wedding’. If not for the party, and the leadership of Stool, even more lives would have been lost. Stool’s mystical training and group concentration with h/is fellow michonids created a teleportation circle from which everyone (except for Lube-em-up and his ‘repurposed’ Purple Wurm) escaped….

…except for Talis.

She decided that this escape was counter-productive to her forced objective of ‘saving the underdark’, so rather than escape with the party, she stayed behind (with the party’s BAG OF HOLDING) to journey (to GravenHollow) on her own.

Back to Graxultug: After realizing that Talis has departed, the party regroups, recovers, and retells what they have learned:

  • Merrick takes Gwairn to the StoneSpeakers to be cured of his madness

    • While there, Merrick vows to slay the Aboleth for Hagram
  • Greda speaks privately with Queen Eldith to determine what the party’s next course of action should be.

    • It was decided that, despite Greda’s reservations about the intentions of Gauntlegrim’s King Battlehammer and a possible Zentarim invasion, the party should venture towards his kingdom and offer the Queen’s ‘olive branch’ of alliance. 
  • Reiker reports back to Urd, who tells him to check in on the Drow encampment.

Temporary departures: Reikker learned about the provenance of his vestment from the Reverend Mother, a powerful priestess of Lolth, currently living in one of the Salt Baron's refugee camps.  The Reverend Mother told Reikker of a lost temple on the other side of the Darklake where he might get some answers, and Erde sent Reikker there with some help…! Greda asks Reiker to keep an ear out for talk of the Zentarim. 

New party member! >: – (
The next day, the remaining members of the party are summoned to the Queen’s chamber, and are surprised to see Iosefin Thrazgad (Duergar noblewoman) there! Turns out, the Duergar nobles are none-too-happy to discover that Queen Eldith has her own private party of adventurers doing her bidding without consulting any of the noble class….so she is going to correct that by forcing Kir Thrazgad (Duergar Forge-Cleric) into the party’s line-up. An oafish character to be sure, but he does a kindness to Gwairn by instantly making his armor like-new (a ‘once a day’ ability)!

Onward to Gauntlgrym:
Armed with riding lizards, and a new supply of rations (but no Bag of Holding), the party rides back into the Underdark.  It is on this journey that the party discovers that Kir is a VERY NOSEY fellow. 

Descrated Encampment: After a 10 day journey through the Dark Roads, the party discovers a dead body – a dead, Duegar—-ONE OF MASHA’S MEN! On-alert, they patrol to find many more dead bodies: some with claw marks raking from behind; while others are just….dead (no marks). But they find no attacker – just a row of sleeping Duergar children and a Duergar woman who apparently killed herself. Gwairn’s activtates his Divine Sense and informs the party that something unholy happened here. A two-headed monstrous fiend appears and our heroes do battle!

Merrick is downed (not killed!) in battle, but the party bests the creature overall, learning what happened: this small Duergar encampment was attacked by Masha’s army and, in a moment of desperation, a Duergar witch made a pact with a fiend: Spare the Children in exchange for their lives. With the Fiend defeated, the children awaken and now comes the party’s next challenge: what do with these 11 children???

Fortunately, Kir knows Sending (he uses it to report to Iosefin every day!) and agrees to send a message to Eldith directly: the party will wait with the children (burying the adults, learning Undercommon) until reinforcements from Graxultug so the children do not have to journey with the party to Gauntlgrym. Kir even assures the party that the children will be adopted by Duergar nobles! 

Kindred Ghasts: Forging onwards, the party stops after another seven days when they hear a joyful Dwarven song bellowing from the other side of a bridge. The song comes from a fellow Dwarf Mage named Alistair whose battalion was massacred in a recent battle. Fortunately, Alistair is a mage Necromancer and “revived” his fellow Dwarves to keep him company until he’s rescued! The party discovers he’s been driven mad by the slaughter (sound familiar to anyone) and truly believes his re-animated friends are still alive. Unfortunately, he still has the peace of mind to be racist against any non-dwarves, refusing to let Merrick or Gwairn near. Thankfully, Greda (and the bolstered charisma enhancer cast by Kir) was able to persuade Alistair from attacking the party….and have now JOINED the party (for the time being)!

Lighting the Darkness
Settling Political unrest in Neverlight Grove:

Defeating the Purple Worm

As our heroes emerge from their protective dome sphere, they immediately part ways with Lube-em-up (who has graciously provided them with the poison needed to subdue the Purple worm!) to track their prey. Merrick’s Ranger abilities put them hot on the trail and they soon uncover where the worm has “holed up”.

  • Gwairn gets swallowed!
  • Reiker gets skewered!
  • Talice is poisoned, but is surprisingly OK!
  • Greda breaks the worm’s jaw (while rescuing Gwairn)!
  • A few weapons (And Karadoc) magically glow!

The worm subdued, thanks to Lube-em-up’s poison, the team makes their way through the forest to the other side of Neverlight Grove. Reiker scouts ahead (since he has the best climbing speed) and encounters….

Demon Spore Monster! Aaauugh!

….madness. Thankfully, it is quickly dispelled by Gwairn (using his last ‘lay-on-hands’ to do so!) so Reiker can inform the party of what he saw behind Filo’s secret curtain.

The party devises a plan to use their scroll of sending to Stool – asking him to create a distraction by summoning a meeting of the Mushroom clusters so that the can fight this monster w/o hurting the brainwashed michonids under Filo’s control.

The plan works, but when our heroes set their sights on the demon, Greda is caught up in its thrall, temporarily going mad. She fights against the party for a bit, but is soon restored by Merrick. Afterwards, the Demon Spore monster is swiftly defeated – mostly due to Reiker’s quick thinking of using the demon carapace he scavenged from a previous encounter (Purple worm corpse battle)

Upon defeat, the Demon spore uttered some last words about a…wedding? A marriage? To Whom? (Filo?) 

To be continued…!

The journey to rescue Stool

A chance encounter:

After another long day’s trek, the party happens upon a Drow woman who have captured a band of Michonoid creatures. Some quick thinking from Talis led to a plan of deception, where she and Reiker disguised themselves as fellow Drow…before quickly backstabbing her to death.

The michonids, somewhat grateful for the party’s help, led them to their destination: Neverlight Grove!

Unrest in Neverlight Grove:

While walking through the streets of Neverlight, the party notices a ton of Duergar and Drow working the Grove like zombies…only to realize that they are zombies – this is apparently a standard michonid ability: to “repurpose” the dead into workers.

The party is soon led to a crowd of Michonids where they explain the purpose for their journey: to rescue Stool; has anyone seen him? Upon hearing Stool’s name, the entire crowd goes bonkers. Stool eventually emerges from the crowd and ‘explains away’ the party’s presence and ushers everyone quietly into a nearby secluded home area. There, the party is informed of the political goings-on in Neverlight Grove: The are opposing factions within the hive-mind of Neverlight – half the city, led by a Michonid named “Filo” – wants to burrow deeper into the UnderDark so they can use what’s down there (??) to help protect Neverlight. The other half of the city, led by Michonid, Bassidia, (whom Stool follows) just wants to leave Neverlight Grove and make another home. Bassidia feels that Filo is corrupting michonids (similar to what they’ve been doing to the Duergar and Drow bodies the party saw earlier) into joining his side. The party reluctantly agrees to side with Bassidia

Also – it’s been a while since the party last saw Stool and DAMN, has he grown up into a hottie.

Hunt for the Purple Wurm:

Bassidia and Stool task the party with obtaining a purple wurm – a creature they can use to help them burrow out of Neverlight safely. The party is to meet a great michonid ‘wurm hunter’ and administer a special poison into the wurm because, remember – the wurm is no good dead; it has to be taken alive. The party is given the vial, which has enough poison in it to take down 24 people, but barely enough to slow down the purple wurm.

The party has a few encounters in the outskirts of Neverlight Grove….which is where our last session ended.

The Journey to Neverlight Grove!
Introducing Gwairn Gwiddlenoc

Saying Goodbye
The Party’s final, FINAL days in Graxultug consisted of a few last-minute goodbyes, including the surprising farewell of the Bard, Orrin, who felt he could do more good advising by Queen Eldeth’s side than he could out in the wilds of the Under Dark. But in return, the warrior Reiker volunteered to take his place, so as not to diminish the party’s numbers too greatly (they had already lost a Sorcerer, after all). As part of this exchange, Reiker made Orrin promise to look after the young, orphaned duergar LAIRD.

So with that — and the procurement of a few choice provisions from Queen Eldith — the party was off!

  • Riding lizards
  • <s>Brooch</s> Cartouche of Shielding
  • Metal Fortress
  • 1 Potion of Greater Healing
  • Rations (20 days / 2 weeks)
  • 4 Riding lizards + 1 cart
  • Map of the Under Dark cities (2 years old)
  • Some words of wisdom re: Michonid society

Encounter #1: Paladin Gwairn (and Caradoc)  
Traveling a few days in total darkness (the entire party has dark vision now!), the party was surprised to find a torch light so far from the nearest…and even MORE surprised to find a Deep Gnome and…a floating turtle of some kind??? Standing around, reading a Duergar sign carved on the wall.

His name? Gwairn Gwiddlenoc
His turtle’s name? Caradoc

Apparently a Paladin “of the Light,” Gwairn had been wandering alone in the Underdark for quite some time. Despite objections from Talas, the party agreed to take in the tiny deep gnome and guard him until they reached the next city (unsure if Neverlight Grove counted as a ‘city’.)  

Enounter #2: Banshees?
Coming upon a chasm, the party stopped to investigate, only to be beseeched by a couple of winged demons feasting on a Purple Worm nest. Half the party (Talas, Reiker) was incapacitated by the droning of the beasts, but Gwairn and Greda (assisted by a Silence spell from Merrick) shrugged off whatever aura they had and made quick work of the two beasts. Perhaps lil Gwairn wasn’t so in need of protection after all…!

Encounter #3: Drow Bounty Hunters
The party, while descending through some caverns, intruded upon a party of Drow sent to retrieve Merrick and Greda. A quick skirmish ensued until the drow realized they were outnumbered and surrendered. They revealed how the party was being tracked and promised to never seek them out again in exchange for their lives (and the accidental knowledge of the demise of the other dimension where Bith hailed). Despite Merrick and Greda’s hatred for the drow, the party agreed to let them live.

“they’re heroes, after all…they’re not like us” said Talas.

Oops. Guess the Drow didn’t survive after all. 

Enounter #4:
Descending a spiral cavern, the party decided to scale down the walls with their lizards and managed to awake and enrage some horrific necromancer-goat creatures who summoned a quartet of skeletal creatures to attack while they too surrounded our heroes. Trapped and outnumbered, the party struggled to do-away with the goat-necromancers quickly, as they realized that would destroy to skeletal creations (yes, they did. That’s our story and we are sticking to it, damnit). When they triumphed over the undead, they discovered – Masha had been through there.

Encounter #5:
On the 7th night, the party – unable to find a proper resting spot – settled in for the night on a bridge overseeing an under dark river. FOOLS! A duo of Aboleth-like creatures emerged from the waters, snatching up Greda (and Merrick) in their gullets while claiming that “Mother is upset” with them. But the party, strengthened by their time in Graxultug, paid no heed and destroyed the two after freeing their friends and resolving…NEVER SLEEP NEAR THE WATER AGAIN.



Iosefin Thrazgad was unamused.

Outside her home on the column-lined Boulevard of Unyielding Steel, a bacchanal of irksome proportions was unfolding. Peasants, dock laborers, fishmongers, the disavowed and the dispossessed — they were all of them in the streets, cavorting to the tunes of Salzbaron's monkey accordionists. The little charlatan had presumed to hold — what did his pet drow call it? A "true festival for true duergar," the day after the shield dwarf's absurd gala. Salzbaron had produced free food by the cartload and ale by the barrel and he filled the streets with entertainments and diversions and amusements, and the "true duergar" who had studiously avoided the Steelshadow bastard's party had turned out in droves.

Iosefin knew this for what it was: A projection of power. Retribution and rebuke, for ignoring him. Do not presume to know this city. Do not presume to decline my courtesy.

So unsubtle. So gauche.

The worst of it was, the shield dwarf let it happen. She had explicitly ordered both the city watch and the Stone Speakers to ensure a safe, orderly common space for the fair. Nine hells, Erde herself was down there, doing the ensuring. And, if Iosefin knew Erde well (and not so much time had passed since those academy days, those wine-tinted nights stolen away on the Darklake), Erde would be on her third or fourth flagon of the Salt Baron's finest stout by now. Erde had no love for the Salt Baron, but she would never turn down a stout. So there she was, doing the shield dwarf's will, never you mind the message sent about who truly was beloved of the common breed.

Say what one might about Horgar, but the old man would never have suffered this insolent noise.

Grimacing, Iosefin turned away from the window and to her guests. She had summoned her — no, not peers, the heir to house Thrazgad had no peers. But she had summoned the other noble houses of the city, Ironhead and Thuldark and Muzgardt and Xardelver and the whole fractious, bloody-minded lot of them — to her home, to discuss the city's recent state of…dishabile.

Blackskull, too. Erde's older brother, heir to some of the city's richest adamantine seams, brooded in a corner, none too surreptitiously trying to pick out his sister amidst the crowd below. If he'd had half a lick of sense, he'd realize the window he perched at overlooked not any portion of Salzbaron's little carnivale, but rather Iosefin's own tastefully appointed meditation garden; and anyway, the likelihood of sussing out Erde when she didn't want to be found was minimal on a generous day. Anotoli was never the bright one in that family. Iosefin stifled a sigh. Oh, the clay she had to work with. But for the stone that the little shield dwarf had somehow brought to bear in her conquest…

"You saw how ruthlessly her thugs cleared out the derro," Odette was saying as Iosefin returned to the stonewood table around which the nobles had gathered. "Squirrelly little things. Foolish. Our ancestors should never have let them into the city to begin with. Bad enough we have those mad giants to contend with. Though I hear she's no great friend of theirs either."

"Madame Xardelver, it almost sounds as though you approve of our queen's conduct," Davor Thuldark offered drily.

"Queen-designate," Vlaclav Muzgardt corrected. The master of the city's breweries (those that didn't pay coin to Salzbaron for his "protection," and oh, but Iosefin knew just when and where to levy that line of credit) stabbed a hand angrily into the air for emphasis. "No matter what that mongrel drow said — did you see her yesterday, looking for all the world like a wet rag yet to be wrung out and presuming to talk to us? — we must remember that the Steelshadow whelp has yet to accede the throne."

"Yet," Iosefin cut in. She dropped into her chair, sized slightly larger than the others. "She will do so now. She has no other choice. She cannot reform the Council unless she does so, and she cannot hold the city unless she installs a new magisterium to bolster her position here."

"Whatever happened to all her posturing about democracy?" Odette Xardelver said the word as though it were a curse or blight on her house. "Surely accession is at odds with her stated desire to emancipate our holdings."

Iosefin scowled, not least because of all the nobles arrayed around her, Xardelver was the most unethical when it came to such…holdings. Stories spread. Even Iosefin found them distasteful. Lords should have a measure of pride in their possessions. Through thinned lips, Iosefin said, "The child will do no such thing. She'll take the power thinking to relinquish it, and then, I suspect—"

"The Steelshadow blood will run true," Davor muttered.

Iosefin nodded. "Indeed. And we should be grateful her claim to that wretched bloodline allowed her to dislodge Horgar, because Horgar was, at the end of the day, gone tipsy and grey with madness and let's none of us forget that we turned no profit, flourished little coin towards the end of that very long, very grim day. That infernal music no longer keeps me up late of nights, no caterwauling from the streets just outside my bedroom window, and for that I will forever be disposed favorably towards the bastard and her friends. But power always believes itself to be in possession of a noble soul. We, however, are noble. We know better, sirs and madams."

She leaned forward, pitching her voice low so that all around her, even that idiot Anotoli over by the wrong bay windows in the corner, would have to strain to hear her next words.

Werz, you fool. Shows of power didn't need to be showy.

"What matters now is what we do with that knowledge."


Galina coughed as the smoke from her phial dissipated. The little workspace she'd been given within the Hold was poorly ventilated, but a few swift gusts cleared the room enough for her to breathe without hacking up a lung. The acrid smoke curled in the corner, but otherwise stopped assaulting Galina's respiratory system.

Lighting could still use some work, though. She'd been forced to requisition a pair of goggles from one of Erde Blackskull's quartermasters – with the dissolution of the Council of Savants, there was no one central authority for arcana and magecraft in the city, and Galina would rather take her chances with the city guard than try to curry favor with the wyrmsmiths – but even these goggles, ensorcelled as they were to amplify and magnify, couldn't get her deep enough into the underlying runic architecture she was working on.

It bothered her. Of course it bothered her. She was fuelled by anger and disgust and all manner of emotions, most of them of the sort to cause her slate grey skin to flush obsidian with shame. At the thought of what she did to the others, of how she let those demons winnow their way into her mind… No, Galina couldn't let poor work conditions hamper her. Not when she was needed. Not when she could help rebuild the wards that were supposed to keep the city safe, supposed to keep the demons at bay.

Not when Vogo needed her.

She thought back, to this morning. Her meeting with the – was she supposed to still call him Hierarch? Without the Savants lending him authority? But no, Vogo commanded authority even without a title before his name. The derro had come to her, shortly after his liberation and attended by two of his remaining apprentices.

"So few of them," he'd muttered, as his apprentices turned to leave him alone with Galina. "So few of the Council, unsullied."

Galina opened her mouth to say something, some reassuring pablum, but Vogo had cut her off with a preemptive wave of the hand.

"No, please. You do not need to assuage my guilt. My brothers and sisters sought to combat roiling madness, but were blindsided in the process. I have made my peace with my culpability in that corruption."

Quietly, around the stone that had somehow lodged itself in her throat, Galina said, "I can't pretend that I'm any better."

Vogo smiled, slight but there. The old derro's skin looked paper-thin, wrinkled and creased at the corners of his eyes and mouth. "It would be easier to self-flagellate, wouldn't it? Wear a hair shirt and kneel before H'Graam, suffer as you know you rightly should. But we, you and I, are creatures of science. We know that benediction only goes so far. You did wrong, and yet have emerged unscathed. That you feel remorse over this is good. That you act upon that remorse will be better still."

Scrubbing furiously at her eyes, Galina said, "How? I've done — I did terrible things, maester. The demons, yes, but that doesn't absolve me of anything."

"I do not come to you offering absolution. That is the province of H'Graam, and anyway he and Dorhun never did much care for us derro, so what business would I have in trafficking their pablum? Instead, I come offering… purpose. I am looking to make something new. I cannot pretend that I failed to stop my brethren, much as you cannot bring back those who bled out under your knife. I must do other things, to make amends. And I would very much like your assistance in doing so, young thaumaturge."

Galina gaped. "But – pardon, maester, but the Council of Savants has ever been a conclave of derro."

Vogo nodded. "Indeed. And it has long been my people's bulwark of cultural pride, to shepherd the arcane in this city. But as I said, perhaps it is time for something new. Perhaps the void embraced my brethren so easily because they were so insular." He reached out to pat the back of Galina's hand. "Perhaps, child, with our voices together, we can scream back at the void."


"I say again, what? I can't hear you over this din."

From across the table, Sarith took a long pull off his drink. Some drow concoction that the assassin had somehow cajoled the barkeep, a surly old warship of a duergar with a frown like a scar, into making. How he'd managed to procure aniseed down here was beyond Orin, but lo and behold, there Sarith sat, self-satisfied as a cat, sipping his drow poison and merry all the while.

"I said, congratulations, Peaches!" Sarith said, leaning over. "You must be very proud."

"Now I know I'm hearing things. Are you saying not-awful things to me? In public?"

Sarith grinned a toothy grin. "You wound me. Am I not ever the picture of consideration and decency to you, Peaches?"

"Stop calling me that."

Ignoring him, Sarith said, "Peaches, we've been through so much together: you, me, the dwarf, the slightly taller dwarf. The siege engine with the dwarf fetish. The simple elf. So good of you all to take pity on him and bring him along on class field trips."

"You make me regret every minute spent off the bow of that abominable slave ship."

"You did make a pretty piece of ornamentation, won't lie."

"All right, I think I've humored you enough," Orin said, moving to get up from his chair. He fell back into it with an undignified thud as Sarith hooked one chair leg with a foot and tugged. Damn the drow's preternatural reflexes.

"Oww," said Orin, as he rubbed the back of his head with one hand where he'd banged against the chair.

"Did they teach you nothing up in Neverwinter? I swear, for a courtier, you demonstrate a shocking lack of decorum." Sarith made a show of looking across the room over the brim of his mug as he added, "I rather hope you do better by dear old dwarf number one when it comes to inculcating her in courtly graces."

Orin spluttered. He glared out from beneath the fringe of his hair. "I— What, how did you—"

"How did I know that you're planning on leaving our valiant coterie of vagabonds for a plum position in a nascent royal cabinet, one that has the potential to henceforth be the nexus for all Underdark politicking? Peaches. Didn't we cover this already? I know you."

Scowling, Orin pushed his hair back over and behind one ear. "So who's your spy on the inside?"

Sarith beamed. "Wouldn't you like to know."

The two of them passed a moment in what probably counted as amiable silence, insofar as neither one of them was actively trying to murder/insult/sexually harass the other for a moment or two. All around them, duergar were out en masse – drinking, singing, and pressing many, many coins into any number of the Salt Baron's many, many palms. Something had shifted in the traditionally dour duergar capital, and even today, days after the Salt Baron's unofficial "liberation festival," the mood was…no, cheerful wasn't right, Orin prized himself on his bon mots and "cheerful" overstated the case by a league. Already Dorhun's avatars patrolled the city. Though their incarceration-happy tendencies were held in check by Eldeth's desire (forcefully and precisely worded, as per Orin's suggestion) for a tenday-long jubilee, Orin could tell that something would have to change there, and soon.

But…hopeful, yes. Hopeful would suffice. And here, in one of the Salt Baron's taverns, surrounded by – gods, smiling duergar? — Orin thought he might have pocketed a scrap of that hopefulness for himself, too.

Across the room, a singer on the tavern's small stage wound down. Orin applauded lightly, a professional courtesy (though he kept his remarks about the singer's tone, timber, song choice, pitch, and overall worth as an entertainer to himself), then turned back to Sarith. "So really, why did you call me here? It can't just be to show off how many people love drinking what your new boss has on tap."

Sarith scoffed. "Boss? Please. Werz and I are partners."

Orin laughed. "Right. Would you like to pull the other one? It's got bells on." Sarith frowned, a break in the drow's otherwise droll, disaffected persona. Point, Orin thought happily. He pressed the advantage, leaning forward to trace a hand artfully in the air. "Respectfully, old boy, you and I are both smart enough to know that whatever leash he has you on is exactly long enough for you to choke on, if you stray too far afield."

"How dare—" Sarith began, before remembering himself and visibly calming his rage. The drow took a breath, then said, "Werz and I are…mutually geased. He serves my purposes just as much as I do his."

At that, Orin pulled back. He squinted at Sarith. He'd had his suspicions, of course he had, but to hear everything confirmed like this… Trying to keep the horror out of his voice, Orin said, "…you what? You entered into this voluntarily? Sarith, what in the world could compel you to—"

"Because not a single one of you trusted me," Sarith said, with more heat in his voice than Orin had ever heard him express in the three months that they'd known one another, and Orin sat dumbfounded as everything snapped into place, cascading as quickly as the words flew from Sarith's lips, "not once, not after the, oh, dozen times I saved us on our madcap flight from Ilvara's wretched slave pens. Because despite the fact that I told you all time and time again, honest as the Spider Mother's greed, that my best interests coincided with the party's success, the only one who trusted me to behave in accordance with those best interests was the maester, Spider Mother pity his soul, and because frankly, Peaches, I was tired of being taken for granted. I'll say this for Werz. When you do good work for him, he lets you know."

Sarith fought to regain control. Orin did him the kindness of looking away as he did so.

Finally, Orin said, "He promised you a cure, didn't he." It wasn't a question. He reached out as if to touch the scarring along the side of Sarith's face – the drow had done his best to disguise it with herbs and colored char and the hood of his cloak, but the pockmarks still showed – then thought better of it and pulled his hand back.

Sarith looked him straight in the eyes. "Some of us are not meant for genuflecting before gods and monsters. I will not be discounted. I know my worth, bard."

"We would have gotten around to it eventually," Orin lied.

Sarith smirked. Light caught in his eyes. "Tell me another one, Peaches. Something with bells on."


"I never really told you about why I left my tribe," said Ront.

Eldeth glanced up in surprise. She and Ront were alone together in a small antechamber, preparing for Eldeth to step out and accept Gracklstugh's crown of swords from H'Graam. This quiet moment meant so much to her; Eldeth hadn't slept in days, running ragged with action reports, reconstruction contracts, the particulars of a coronation when the city hadn't hosted one in centuries. At least she had Orin to rely on for the latter. Not for the first time, Eldeth found herself grateful for the bard's expertise with the glamour of state, glad for his decision to stay behind.

Outside the antechamber, chandeliers the size of upended mountains flooded the throne room with light. Gracklstugh's anthem came to a crescendo, then died away. H'Graam – a manifestation of him, at least, a projection of the giant's will given malleable form within the Hold – began the long litany of invocations that would conclude with her accession to the Granite Throne. She worried about meeting the solemn giant's expectations. She worried about everyone's expectations, full stop.

"You never seemed to want to talk about it," said Eldeth.

Ront nodded. "I didn't. And I don't. It's not… I don't like to think about that time in my life. Icewind Dale wasn't an easy land to call home. And my people couldn't make it any easier on each other, because if you did, people died. It's just how life was. Hard, cold, and over before you even really got a chance to do much with it. The strongest ruled, because there was no room for weakness."

Eldeth tried not to grin as she said, "Are you callin' me the strongest, then?"

Ront shook his head. "No. Far from it." As Eldeth arched an eyebrow, Ront hastened to add, "And that's why you're going to be a better ruler than the khans of the north could ever hope to be.

"You'll make mistakes. You'll disappoint people. You'll be disappointed by them. But Eldeth Feldrun, I know you. I know your stubborn heart. You're going to make stupid sacrifices for them, but you'll make them want to sacrifice for you, too. You're going to make them feel like someone's paying attention to them. Like someone's on their side, maybe for the first time in their lives.

"Your blood don't make you a queen. When you set down that crown of swords – and we both know you will when the time is right, when the city is ready – you'll leave it in better shape than when you took it up. That's what does it. You're a dwarf. It's what your people do." A pause as Ront glanced back at her, then, "It's what you do."

Outside their private repose, the city watched.

The nobility, arrayed in ranks, sneering and grimacing and plotting, plotting, always plotting beneath their civil facades. Themberchaud, who had insisted on being in physical attendance, occupying the whole of one side, his attendants pressed uncomfortably against the smirking dragon's flank. Erde shooting daggers with her eyes at the Salt Baron, who in turn preened and smiled and paid extravagant care to Mother Juryev seated at his side. And beyond, outside the confines of the Hold itself, watching on illusionary feeds projected by Erde's and the Salt Baron's mages, the people. Her people.

Eldeth peered through a crack in the door and saw glimpses of faces she knew, faces she loved. A slim, quiet elf, listening with devotion to H'Graam – perhaps given purpose at long last? Another hooded figure, Erde's man (human, so unexpected in this place, so full of surprises), head on a swivel as he scanned the room for threats. The bright red splash of a sister's hair, the sort of love her mother had so dearly missed in the years after her flight from this very city so many decades ago. She thought about the missing, too; the cat's mischievous smile in the darkness, the old master with his stories and his addle-pated warmth. She hoped they were watching somewhere.

Eldeth turned back and started at her reflection, shining out from Ront's meticulously polished shield. She tried to calm the silent thundering of her blood.

After a beat, she blinked her vision clear. "You great bloody idiot," she said, only a little hoarsely.

Ront beamed. "As you say, Your Grace."

He extended his arm to her. The Deep Queen took it, then lead them out into the light.


Ihar came to in the dark.

He strained his eyes, but could make out neither form nor depth of the room around him. The air was cool and damp to his exposed skin – his robes, someone had taken his robes, someone had taken the mantle from his shoulders and the hem from his train and someone had taken his robes. The hierarch moved to lift his limbs, but found himself restrained by bands – cold, smooth, stone – at his wrists and ankles.

"—!" he tried to yell, but stopped, and found he could not, for a solid bit in his mouth choked the words from him, surging forth from the stone brace at his neck to bind him silent.

In the – in the distance, nearby, the madding fields? — somewhere within range of his hearing, someone spoke. "You are advised to avoid strenuous exertion, internee. No harm is intended towards you, but the Seam is not responsible for unauthorized self-injury."

From what Ihar could only presume was the wall, a face emerged. Alabaster white, illuminated from within. Placidly arrogant features, indeterminate special extraction. The face of the oppressor, his oppressor, all that he could see in this sightless dark, and had Ihar a mouth to curse with and his hands free to crook around a skein of mana, he would have struck Dorhun's smug, bland face from this world.

But he had neither, so Ihar sat, wide-eyed, straight-spined, as a manifestation of the stone giant unfolded from the black stone wall and crossed the distance to him.

"Internee 13-36," the stone giant began, "you are hereby found in violation of the Gracklstugh Compact of Powers, as enumerated by punitive codes through Sufficient evidence has been presented to the regnancy by state-sanctioned agents acting under their own reconnaissance. Access to due process has been summarily reconciled and revoked. Operator segment hereby discharges its appointed function as administrator of the peace of the sovereign state of Gracklstugh, long may the Deep Queen reign. Reformatting protocol commencing."

Ihar's heart jackhammered in his chest. I am a hierarch of the 36! You cannot do this to me! Everything we did, we did for the city! Ihar wanted to say, or perhaps most desperately, most fervently, You will need us when the devourers come! But the stone bit dug deeper, and deeper yet. He strained to pull back as the stone giant leaned down and in, his monstrous smooth face shedding light at his approach. Points of light, pulling out and away, orbiting the giant's head, moving in rigorously sharp patterns around the contours of the room, one, two, four spooling away, winnowing their way into the fortress of Ihar's mind, oh, starwalkers and void mothers, lights, oh—

"Internee 13-36, please indicate the number of lights you perceive."

Justice for Zazz – and his widow!

The fall of the team’s primary caster left most of the party dumbfounded for a moment – long enough to trigger a transportation spell that summoned a new PC to the party: Talas – the Seduction Rogue!

Dumbfounded as to how she appeared and for what reason (or that Zazz was ever married), the party peppered Talas with many questions regarding her origin. Once satisfied that she was no danger to them, the party moved on, accepting her as one of their own.


Searching the room for both magical (Reiker) and regular (Talas) items, Reiker discovered papers from Amnicxz’s experiments – the party now had the proof they were looking for! They also discovered that Amnicxz had left some magical traps for those who would dare enter. Deciding to use it to the team’s tactical advantage, Reiker and Talas positioned the team so it would help wipe out the remaining guards. A quick battle ensues with our party victorious. The only remaining thing left to do? Rescue Vogo.

Scanning the rest of the caverns in this pocket dimension leads the group to 3 distinct caverns:

  • One leads them to a prison of Dwarves
  • A second leads them to the Dwarves’ guards
  • The Third leads the party to a rather large monster (holding Voggo?)

A couple of battles (each after some extensive planning — caltrops, ball bearings, crawling the walls to cross a river), the team attacks each time – only to resort to improvisation on the fly both times. Luckily, Voggo knows how to return back from the demi-plane and the party returns back to the Duegar reception – where the Derro are held accountable for their crimes against the city and arrested by the Stone Speakers.


Showdown with the Hierarch Amnicxz
R.I.P. Ul Zazz Saviux

The party takes a 1-hour short rest in the pipes of the Derro Citadel….and takes too long. Enough time to worry Edith enough to send Orrin after the party. 

OH HAI, ORRIN (Join the party!) 

Now a party of five, they discover that they need a FIFTH vial of demon blood to enter the demi-plane.  

  • Edith convinces the Stone speakers to transport Orrin to the party’s location! So close in fact that he manages to emerge in the WATER (or whatever it is) filled with Devil Fish!
  • Of course, now that means we need FIVE vials of demon blood….and not four.

The Sarcophagus:

  • When tracking our way back through the pipes, the party discovers a magic Sarcophagus! Against better judgment, we open it (by spilling our blood on it)
  • Reiker is downed! (once)
  • The party fights in magical darkness, frantically, and it is not clear whether it’s Orrin’s vicious mockery (“Bansee’s”…..hah!), Zazz closing the Sarcophagus, or Greda fighting with the flag that surely saved her back when her entire platoon was massacred, but these demons are taken down swiftly.

    • +1 demon blood!

Back to the Door of the Demi-Plane:

  • Foolishly, Orrin asks how to open the door (Really, you should know better) only to have Zazz show him how by opening it and walking through himself. Reiker quickly chases after him and the others regretfully follow after him.

The Demi-Plane:

  • Immediately our heroes are set upon by a couple of Homunculi (aka “two homunculus’s”) and a Derro witch.
  • The beasts and Derro are slain, dropping a key to a door and not much else.
  • We find the Derro’s lab (empty – hurray!) and loot it, discovering a demon statue – SOMETHING MORE THERE THAN MEETS THE EYE?

Since we hear rushing water, we journey upwards to a river. Reiker’s superior dark vision shows us enemy encounters on all paths. But Zazz luckily prepared “Water-walking” today and opens a path that was not open to us before. We walk along the river’s path and up a wall – discovering a (secret?) passage – AND THE FINAL BOSS FIGHT.

With monsters dissected, yet somehow alive, chained to work tables, the Derror Hierarch beckons us towards him, almost gleeful with the ways he plans to kill us. He recognizes Zazz in his “Wizard of Thay” garb and regards him with the respect it deserves. The others, though…..!

A pitched battle ensues between Zazz and the Hierarch, and Reiker is downed (twice), while Merrick, Orrin, and Greda are mostly ignored. Greda, though, will not be ignored as she finally has a lead on what killed her platoon. She rushes the Hierarch, demanding an answer with each blow:




The Hiearch responds admist the volley of blows: “Those are Vogo’s** Wardens….!” 

Greda’s unrelenting barrage, along with the mercy killings of the demons chained to the tables, makes quick work of the Hierarch, but not before landing a killing blow of the Exalted Ulzazz Zazz Saviux, Grand Master Sage of the Arcane and Scroll of the Queen (may he rest in peace).

This is terrible. Zazz is dead. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?? (To be continued)

**NOTE – Vogo, we discovered, was a Derro who didn’t believe in the sacrificing and experimenting on monsters and Duergar.

Derro Dungeon - The Roll20 Adventure!
Part 1

When last we left our heroes….we'd just beaten up some old Derro ladies!

With too low an intelligence score to solve the riddles, our heroes are forced to pull blood the old fashioned way. We fought the creatures in the jungle with much success and discovered a (secret?) passage up some pipes to another demon torture chamber where we won against some "Devil Fish" demons. 

Colored blood samples secured: 

  • Blue
  • Black
  • …..did we get green, last time?

Anywho – time for a short rest! 

......probably gonna burn something down


Everyone reconvened at the Palace of the Deep King and slowly approached the now crown-weary Eldeth, not having good news to share. ….except for Zazz. Zazz told Eldeth everything:

  • about the unholy torturings
  • about the demon summonings
  • about the level 5 spell scrolls he got as a gift and proceeded to use to retrieve his surprisingly “Owl-like” (re: stats)  Imp – Voxx.

Voxx, being a demon was almost killed 5 minutes after first summoning by Reiker.

Righteously furious, Eldeth ordered that the party find proof of these activities so we can denounce them publicly during the upcoming Gala.


Eldeth sent Merrick (and Reiker) off to the Stone Speakers to see if they will help in “disciplining” the Council of Savants. And thanks to some Elvish cunning (sure, they’re known for that), he was able to convince the stone speakers to help:


Us: …..right!

Stonespeakers: GOOD. HERE’S YOUR ADAMANTINE ARMOR (x5: Eldeth, Ront, Merrick, Reiker, and Greda)



The party (Greda, Zazz, Reiker, and Merrick) were able to ‘sneak in’ to the practically empty <s>dungeon </s>Council temple while the Savants were attending the "Graxultug Gala" with Eldeth, Ront, and Orrin. The party had a few lackeys who stayed behind – some old grannie witches – and was able to determine that the Council houses a pocket dimension (possibly several!) where they capture and bleed out other demons.

But how to get into the pocket dimensions? The doors are locked with a series of passcodes and riddles! Greda was able to solve one such puzzle (aka the “Diehard 3” puzzle), but were unsuccessful with the other two they came across.

#$%^&ing “Diminishing primes”….!

The last riddle the party took too long to solve ended in a random encounter. What comes after that  WHO KNOWS

Also – I have in my notes that some time in this session (last session?), Zazz finally got his book of blank pages. This should be noted since he began his search for paper since the Campaign started


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