On August 28th, Year 12, with information obtained about the location of a powerful magic mirror composed of the soul of a dragon in Ker Vedno, the bulk of the oath-bound adventurers made their way for the old dwarvish capitol:
- Randall (HuS): Level 13/7 Human Druid/Alchemist (Level 3 Druid Grove)
- Oliver: Level 7 Winged Fox Animal Companion
- Midas: Dryad tree house turned treant
- Gerald: Awakened Ogre Alchemist
- Logi the Phoenix
- Yulden: Level 3 Orc Druid
- 5 Awakened Ponies
- 5 Awakened Trees
- Snass (TrS): Level 7 Kobold Monk
- Irssdanish (First Claw): Awakened Wolf
- Minssdanish (Second Claw): Awakened Wolf
- Sinssshdanish (Third Claw): Awakened Wolf
- Level 3 Wolf Animal Companion
- Polly (MiM): Level 5 Dwarf Brawler
Meeting up north of the grove to avoid the prying eyes of whoever has been scrying on Randall, they head up the great road, expecting to arrive at the canyon way up to Ker Vedno by evening.
Randall, of course, knows that Schek Garim has been in control of this portion of the Great Road since the attack on the Dragon Empire driving them out of the region and subsequent dissolution of the Union of Schek. In the late afternoon, they come on orcs and goblins fighting a giant.
Not one to let an extremely fortuitous roll on the encounter table go to waste, Randall uses his falcon form to reach the giant before the fight is over and contribute enough that they are grateful to him. They agree to bring them to their commander in the Ker Vedno valley on the promise that they can help find a way into the city itself.
By late morning the 29th, they are before the commander, who agrees to let them investigate for the way in, but is disappointed in the lack knowledge they were contributing given the promises they came with. He shares with them that he has 100 orcs trying to cut into the pedestal beneath the massive statue at the top of the valley, but the pedestal keeps healing itself. At one point, they believed they were close to something open, but after it healed and they cut in again, there was nothing there.
While Randall investigates the pedestal where the orcs are working, Polly uses his shellycoat to walk the bottom of the valley lake, finding no secret way there, but evidence of old docks burned down and around a hundred dwarven warrior remains without much sign of battle.
Randall decides to fly up to the head of the massive statue (2000 feet tall carved and built into the cliff face) with Yulden, Oliver, and Logi. They find an iron door at the base of the statue’s head (as well as seeing the heads and shoulders of 7 other dwarves the same size in the slope up the mountain). The latch of the iron door has been burned away with acid long ago and they open it to see a corridor that leads to stairs up into the head.
Randall gets the others to get up by flying potion or whatever means, leaving Gerald in command of the trees and ponies in the Schek Garim camp. They all make their way into the head, finding a single dwarven suit of armor (punctured and battered) with a skeleton inside slumped against the far wall of the chamber at the top of the stairs. Randall senses magic on two large gems embedded in the wall, as well as on the body. They discover that looking into one gem allows them to see the canyon entrance from the great road clearly and looking into the other allows them to see the switchbacks beside the waterfall most of the way up the canyon. Inside the stomach cavity of the dwarf, Snass finds a cylindrical rod with a gem embedded in the flattened end. Rubbing the gem causes the rod to flash in a multi-colored pattern.
They descend again to the valley where they find that the rod can indicate the location of the entrance in the pedestal and open it when in proximity. Schek Garim, of course, wants control of the key, not wanting it to get lost inside if they take it with them. The party is concerned they may not be able to escape, so they conduct an experiment, finding they can indeed exit. They leave the key with Schek Garim, who agree to open every hour to let them out, just in case. Schek Garim also agrees that they can keep whatever treasure they find in exchange for sharing whatever scouting information they obtain inside.
Around noon, they set out into the mountain. They walk for miles, passing what look like rest areas and climbing steadily, but Midas makes the journey easy on them. They start to smell rot and waste ahead after about two miles or so and the smell gets stronger and stronger until they find themselves approaching piles of waste material. Randall investigates and is surprised to find that there is a variety of levels of freshness, but his investigation is interrupted when several churners attack. The enemy, with many attacks and blade dance, poses a very real threat to the wolves and ponies and such, but the party manages to focus them down quickly enough that they achieve no great damage.
After slaying ten of them in short order, the other churners they see lurking on the edge of the light retreat rather than attack. The press on through the piles of refuse in a hurry and find that the tunnel opens up about a quarter mile beyond them into a courtyard, the ceiling suddenly dropping as they enter.
They see some movement and as the trees crouch into the courtyard they make out shadows hiding in the buildings surrounding the low ceilinged courtyard by the light of Logi. While Randall tries to speak to them, a shadow ball flies from a window. The smoke threatens to choke Logi, plunging them into darkness. Randall rushes into Midas and produces lanterns by feel and memory. With some lit and Logi saved by splashing water, they see a large roach-like humanoid rush toward them with suicidal determination. They kill it and it falls, exploding in a cloud of sputum.
Randall calls for them to flee the courtyard straight ahead between buildings down what he assumes is the main thoroughfare, the multiple lights counteracting the effects of more shadow balls. Eventually, they get far enough that they are subjected to no more attacks, and the enemy doesn’t seem to be following them. Slowing only a little, they soon come to a portcullis with an apparatus that allows them to easily lift it, though it seems to have been jerry-rigged, as the mechanism was originally on the far side.
They continue along the same central route, passing hundreds of doorways and dozens of intersecting roads and alleyways, most smaller than the one they are on and none larger. They encounter a few giant centipedes in the subterranean road that Randall quickly deals with by commanding them to devour one another.
They stay the course straight ahead and soon arrive at a massive shaft in the middle of a sort of courtyard, the first they have come to since the roaches. It ascends and descends, but based on the guidance from the god of knowledge dragon they believe they need to climb. They find a ramp to the level above nearby and ascend, Randall narrowly evading a poisoned spear trap made from cobbled together bits. They disable it and continue, climbing a ramp on the next floor only to be met with arrows from above.
They descend and take cover, attempting to communicate with the archers in elvish and dwarvish. Taking a light and his shields, Polly advances enough to see that they are ratfolk not so different from those he encountered in the woods in Wraecliff’s demesne. He recalls that Stephen was able to communicate with them on some level via thieves’ cant signs. With one of the ponies selected for the mission being a thief capable of covert communication, they decide to give it a try.
With tapping, the pony succeeds in contacting one of them and they agree to meet for better communication. Polly guards the pony to the meeting and he manages to negotiate their passage through the next few levels of the city, which the ratfolk have trapped extensively, on the assurance that they will be in conflict with the bat queen and her forces once through.
Guided through to the fourth level, the first with high ceilings, they begin to ascend a ramp to the fifth while the ratfolk withdraw to the third. As they near the top of the ramp, impenetrable darkness surrounds them and they hear arrows incoming. They manage to retreat without losses back out of the darkness and a standoff begins as they call up in dwarvish (and any other languages they think might help) but receive no reply.
While they huddle on the open ramp, they are attacked by a blue psuedodragon that takes an interest to them and manage to light one of the trees afire and elicit a brief panic. Confident that the mirror they seek is on level 5 above, but unwilling to forge ahead and face unknown numbers in the dark, they are paralyzed on the ramp and continue to attempt a parlay.
They get lucky, again, and manage to avoid any other wandering monsters from the 4th floor encounter table as they wait for over an hour, even sending Polly up to collect some arrows in his armor to try to make sure his dwarvish is heard. The luck continues as one of the pterops recognizes this as the bat queen’s arcane language and when informed, she decides to come and see for herself.
Polly is able to negotiate with the queen (who says she is blessed by the Ushyek Relikeh in the temple above) and she agrees to have them brought to her palace to look over her treasure for the mirror they seek in exchange for joining her warriors in an attack on the ratfolk after succeeding in assuaging her concern that they have been sent by the ratfolk to assassinate her (because otherwise they could not have made their way through the ratfolk levels).
She makes them walk in darkness, and only the three PCs and Midas, to the palace, where they look over her treasure room, watched by dozens of pterops (batlings) and the queen herself. They do not find they mirror they seek there, but when they describe it in detail to the queen, she knows what they are talking about and several pterops soon carry it out to them to place in Midas’ branches (the queen describes it as “annoying”). They depart again in darkness and descend, rejoining their forces (who were again miraculously unassailed by wandering monsters) to lead the pterops attack on the ratfolk.
Using thieves cant, they signal the ratfolk that they are being followed and help the ratfolk to ambush the attacking pterops, quickly wiping out the small attack force. The ratfolk see that they got what they came for and again escort them back to the entry level. They rush directly back the way they came, running through the roach portions without engaging and through the waste before churners can decide to engage.
They share their intelligence with the Schek Garim commander and he allows them to leave with the mirror. They arrive back in Randall’s Grove on September 1st, where Wrinkle immediately senses the arrival of the mirror and strongly disapproves, asking that it soon be moved elsewhere. In the meantime, Randall stores it in his room where it says it will feel most comfortable, until a better place can be arranged. Rovert attempts to scry on the mirror and it lashes out at him, threatening to drive him mad. He rolls triple 1s on his Will check, but somehow feels okay, anyway.
On the second, Randall spends the day polishing the tarnished silver mirror and she assents to locate creature for him, finding that the dryads are to the south and a little west some 24 miles, putting them most likely near Shadow Spires, though Moaning Hill and Wraecliff’s castle are not fully ruled out.
I don’t make information expensive enough, and I feel like I let diplomacy be too powerful. In this case, I justify it by saying this was the first time these two groups were interacting with outsiders who spoke a language they understood. This generation will not be so trusting in the future. The worst part is that it no longer seems as if Rovert has a way to resist them finding the dryads. Other other hand, maybe this ridiculous arc will come to an end.