Time to Dice

7: Into the dark

The party follows the path of destruction left behind by the man who sent a fireball flying right into the crowd – it is indeed the drow mage they fought at the arena. In her rage and determination, Rana’s hands and eyes begin to flare up with greenish eldritch fire and faint traces of black smoke escape her lips.

Soon the party realizes that the man who had introduced himself to Verrin as Zythaeryn is on his way to either the mine or the ruins. On the way there, they come across a gnome cleric who stabilizes two badly wounded guards and then joins the party, ready to help. She later on introduces herself as Lilli.

Halfway between the mines and the ruins, the group meets two miners who have not seen anyone on their way. Therefore, the party turns to go to the ruins. At the entrance, they find one of the explorers from Belenditha‘s group, barely alive. The skin on his back looks like cracked leather and shows a 3-inch stab wound. Lilli uses her cleric magic to bring him back from the brink of death. Rana manages to establish a telepathic link to the man and finds out that Belendithas and the others are inside the ruins but in a safe space. The party helps the wounded explorer as best as possible and pulls him a few feet into the ruin’s entrance.

Upon entering the first cavern, a booming voice echoes from wall to wall. It is Zythaeryn who greets them: “I am glad you could make it. It’s a shame my spectator didn’t finish off at least a few of you.” After a moment, he continues: “It’s good to see you again, ranger. What happened to the rest of your friends? Did they survive or did you leave them to die in that cave?” And, directed at Rana, he adds: “And you, dark one. My, my, how you have grown… I see you have made new friends. It is tempting to do that now – but I like to play with my prey. For now, I will wait. – I will see you all soon, but for now, I have things to do.” With that, the cavern begins to shake violently as the throne that stands in the cave, giving off a shimmering light, vanishes into the ground. Parts of the ceiling come crashing down and the some of the party members are hurt by flying debris. As the dust settles, they see that a slate of solid stone now seals off the hole that the throne vanished into. But not only that. The way the group came from is buried by debris – and the cavern appears to become more and more unstable by the moment. The only option left is onwards…

Since Rana wants to check on Belendithas, the party first makes its way to the library, slowed down by illusionary doors. The entrance way to the library, however, is guarded by a huge spirit guardian. Rana recognizes the symbol of Gilean, god of knowledge, on its shield, she concludes that it is indeed Belendithas who barricaded himself and the others inside the library. Ta’lareg and Lilli are able to squeeze past it, but knocking on the door (and breaking off the handle) as well as calling out yields no results. It seems that the priest and the explorers do not want to take any chances at this point, as they were warned by Rana that the city was under attack.

The group leaves and enters into a long, winding tunnel that none of the explorers had the time to follow so far. After hours of walking, they end up in a long cave from the ceiling of which hang thousands of tiny lights, like an underground starlit sky. The group members enjoy the breathtaking view for a moment, before they begin to move through the cave. There is a small waterfall near where the group came in, and there is a good chance that it is the same stream they saw in the entrance cavern of the ruins.

Ta’lareg examines the remnants of black obelisks which hold dawrven runes engraved in them. As he begins to read, it becomes clear that this place must be some kind of memorial to the fallen. Rana, thinking of her family up in the city ravaged by undead creatures, urges the party to move on and everyone follows.

Ta’lareg and Verrin lead the way through the tunnel that leads out of the illuminated cavern, the stream on their left. Eventually, they see that the rivulet vanishes in an opening to the left. They see that the water falls straight down for about two hundred feet into a lake, and as they lean in closer, they realize that below lie the remnants of a very old underground city. All along the walls and the ground, there are crystal veins that send out a dull blue glow, allowing them to assess the vastness of the of empty city. Aside from a huge hourglass-shaped stalagmite in the middle around which the city is build in a circular fashion, the most prominent landmark is a pyramid-like building.

As soon as the other group members step over to take in the sight, Rana reminds them of what Belendithas told them about the elven prince Naeletheon who sided with the dwarves during the war, was banished by his own people, and came to live with the dwarves on Talonia, in a (up until now) secret underground city that.

The party follows the path that leads them straight into the city. Keena cannot wait to take broken-off shards from the crystal veins, then runs after her comrades.

After a short while, Ta’lareg notices a few eggs nestled inside one of the empty stone buildings. Something is moving inside, and there is a hole right in front of the door. After considering to challenge whatever is inside (Keena does not like the idea of hurting the eggs), the party successfully sneaks around the building to avoid a fight.

Using his ranger skills, Ta’lareg finds out that, somewhere below the city, is a huge number of fey beings. Rana is not sure how wise it is to venture further if they might end up running into a horde of hostile entities. Could Kel’rorn (or Zhyfaeryn) have had the time to build an army? In the end, the five of them proceed nonetheless, hoping that those fey beings are not drow or anything related.

At the other end of the circular cave where another tunnel leads out, they find a body lying on the ground. Ta’lareg and Rana go ahead to inspect it: it is a duergar, cut in half, who must have died within the past five to six hours. The party presses on, stumbling upon another duergar who died in the same fashion. A decent piece of flesh was ripped from his chest. Rana comments that the wound might very well have been caused by a beak, and in the surrounding area, the ranger makes out traces that seem to come from a huge bird…

After a few more hours of walking, the air becomes warmer, and the group is met with the faint smell of rotten eggs. Eventually, the five enter a small cave with a small lava pit in the middle. Away from it, they decide to rest for the night (or whatever time of the day it is).
The first few hours go by quietly, but during the third watch, everyone is roused by the entrance of a hook horror. This creature gives them a good idea what might have killed those duergar…

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