The Blades had been in Llorkh for several days, recovering from their journey into the Shadowfell in the safety of their captured stronghold. Llorkh was in a rebuilding phase and the sound of saws and hammers could be heard even from the stronghold. It would be some time before the town fully recovered from the destruction brought by the Zhents and their hobgoblin army.
A trio of town elders now provided leadership, one of which the Blades were already familiar with: Nathan, the old militia leader. Severely wounded in the town’s liberation several weeks ago, he had passed leadership of the militia to another and now served as an elder. Nathan invited the Blades to meet the other elders at a local tavern.
At the tavern they met another elder, Zacariah, a human at least eighty years old. He detailed his life as a merchant and eventually a caravan master many years ago. He talked of his many trips between Oreme and Llorkh, even to Waterdeep and beyond. Apparently he had once been adventurous and even explored the ruins of Spellgard.
The ruins of Spellgard were a common topic in the taverns of Llorkh and every year a few would work up the courage to travel there. They went in search a ghost with oracular powers that haunted the ruins. Most returned empty-handed. Some never returned at all. But every few years someone returned who had encountered the spirit and received an answer to whatever burning question they had. They would go on to find riches, reunite with a long-lost loved one or otherwise benefit from the experience. That was enough to perpetuate the tale.
Zacariah had gone long ago explored the ruins and came up empty-handed save for some old documents. They were a hand-written copy of the Analects of Kuryon, a cryptic poem that described one man’s meeting with the spirit of Spellgard. That man went on to found a Monastery on the grounds of Spellgard that catered to all travelers to the ruins. Zacariah gave the Analects to the Blades and wished them luck if they ever choose to explore the ruins themselves.
While awaiting the arrival of the final town elder, they looked over the Analects and pondered what question they would ask a spirit that could see the future.
Disaster at the Mines
The tavern door burst open and a man dressed in mining gear came barreling in. He ran up to Nathan and quickly described an emergency. Several miners were attacked at the entrance of the new mine, most were dead. The third town elder, a dwarf, picked up his axe and charged inside in a fury. Nathan and the Blades rushed off to the mine.
During the occupation, the Zhentarim leased Llorkh’s mines to duergar of the Underdark. The dwarves quickly enslaved all local miners and pressed them into service. An exhausted copper mine was reopened and a new shaft was dug to connect to the Underdark. Whether it was for an invading army or some other evil purpose was never discovered; instead it served as an escape route when the duergar fled Llorkh.
In front of the mine entrance were eight corpses, clawed remains of the miners. Another victim was still alive and being tended to by a local priest of Ilmater. All the men had horrible gaping wounds, as if something tore them apart. Other men stood around nervously, fearful of what might emerge from the mine. The injured man was ranting about ‘flying death’ and ‘tentacled horrors’. He seemed temporarily insane.
According to the other men, the mine had been closed for the weeks after Llorkh’s liberation. The duergar fled below but were never seen again. Today the mine was to be inspected and sealed shut. No one seemed sure of what attacked; all those involved were either dead or insane. The others had rushed to the rescue but found only corpses near the entrance. While they dragged the corpses outside, the mine’s owner retrieved his axe and rushed inside as if to end the threat himself. It was time for the Blades to head inside and see what horrors emerged from the Underdark.
Into the Darkness
Torches and Light spells flared and the Blades cautiously entered. Blood streaks and other signs of the struggle were obvious. An occasional deep rumble could be heard deeper in the mines.
Approaching the sound, it became a distinct roar. As they rounded a corner they saw a massive cave bear with shoulders ten foot wide. Far too large to have caused the miners’ wounds, it must have taken up residence at the mine entrance during the last few weeks and been awakened by today’s battle. It pawed at the dwarven elder as he cowered on a ledge just out of reach. The beast soon turned its attention to the Blades and charged. It was quickly put down and the elder rescued.
He asked the Blades to clear out the mine. They asked him, “Why not just blow the entrance and be done with it?” Though reluctant to reveal the truth, the elder eventually told of a newly-discovered vein of silver, found during the work for the duergar. It was enough to benefit the entire town and the mine could not simply be closed. The new Underdark passage, yes, but the mine itself must remain open. The Blades agreed to guard him and his men while they readied to blow the passage. In return they would receive a portion of the mine’s profits, in order to man and provision their stronghold in Llorkh. The entire town would benefit. The dwarf returned to the surface to prepare.
They descended into a new passage hastily dug by slave labor. It was not long until the killers of the miners appeared – gricks. Four foot long wormlike creatures with tentacled mouths and thick skin, gricks were common in the Underdark. Three attacked the Blades from the front while three more burst out of the passage walls to the rear. Kriv and Griegor charged ahead while Rolan faced the brunt of the rear three.
The pack animals did not last long against real opponents. As battle winded down, the dwarf returned with his men. They prepared to blow the passage with some alchemy concoction, though they needed time to work in safety. The Blades continued into the depths.
The new passage continued downward, connecting to a large underground cavern. Purple-glowing moss grew on the walls and gave the cave an odd glow. This must be the Underdark entrance. The cavern was vast and tunnels went in several directions.
More gricks emerged, led by a massive pack leader twice the size of the others. The Blades formed a wall blocking the passage and fought defensively, buying time for the miners. Moments later two floating shapes moved into view. Bloated round bodies with many eyestalks and a large central eye – the ‘flying death’ mentioned by an insane miner. “Beholders, run!” someone shouted. Others realized they were gauths, a less-dangerous beholder but still deadly.
The gauths fired magical beams from their many eyestalks. One hit Fibbit, who became drowsy and fell asleep. Griegor was pushed backward by a magical force, breaking the line. Combat became chaotic. A third, larger beholder flew in from a distant tunnel. Large bloodshot red eyes…an Eye of Flame!
As the gricks died combat focused on the floating abominations. Blades were scorched, weakened, pulled around and put to sleep as many eyestalks found a target. Far behind the combat, Operious noticed the dwarves had finished their work and were moving out of the tunnel. Had they decided to leave the Blades behind?
Waking from the magical sleep, Fibbit charged the largest beholder. It responded with an eye of fear, frightening the halfling into fleeing. Fibbit ran at full speed down a random tunnel of the Underdark, heedless in his desperation to get away. As the effect wore off, Fibbit found himself near the rotted corpses of several duergar – their gear still laying about. They must not have fled far before attracting the attention of these monsters. Fibbit resisted temptation and returned to the battle, making a mental note of the corpses’ location.
Though fearsome the beholders were no match for close-in combat. Griegor and Kriv were relentless and surrounded the Eye of Flame, hacking it to pieces. The Blades quickly retrieved the duergars’ treasure and ran for the surface. The passage was blasted behind them, sealing the Underdark behind tons of rubble – for now.
|Cave Bear: 1200 (level 5 encounter)|
|Grick Pack: 1800 (level 7 encounter)|
|Beholders and Grick Alpha: 3100 (level 10 encounter)|
|Clear the Mine: 1800 (level 7 quest)|
|7900xp total, 1316xp per person|
|Grand Total XP per character: 11660 (13,000 for 8th)|